Jay Simpson | Give it up for Coach Lavin

Feb. 9—CHAMPAIGN — It's time we start giving credit where credit is due.

I know I'm a Champaign Central Maroon, and I take pride in being apart of the CMB family, but Centennial boys' basketball oach Tim Lavin deserves his flowers, and I'm not ashamed to say it.

Some may say he's an acquired taste, but I like him and respect him.

What I admire most about Lavin outside of his ability to win games — he's at 402 victories going into Friday night's Big 12 Conference game at Peoria — is how he allows his star players to play freely to a certain extent.

He doesn't let them go too crazy, but he does allow them to play their game and not have to worry about coming out of the game after a mistake. He trusts his players, and it shows.

I remember being a young kid, I used to go watch all of the Centennial games because that's originally where I wanted to go to high school at.

Both my parents attended Centennial and most of my aunts and uncles did as well, so in my mind, it was only right that I would be a Charger by default.

I always wanted to play for Lavin as a kid because I loved the way he coached and all of his teams were exciting to watch. I remember when James Kinney Jr. played varsity as a freshman at Centennial and that was buzzing around the city, so I was eager to go check him out. The first time I saw him play was actually against Central when he matched up against Verdell Jones III for the first time in high school. The environment was crazy.

This is back when high school basketball in Champaign was top-notch, and from that point on, I just knew I would be Charger playing in that same type of atmosphere one day.

A change of plans happened when I hit eighth grade though, and it wasn't easy.

The bond I had built with my middle school teammates was too tight to let go and majority of them were attending Central.

So we all ended up going in hopes of us taking their throne and becoming the new talk of the town.

Let's just say it never went as planned because Lavin had players like Kinney, Rayvonte Rice, Jeff Johnson and Josh Piper. They were just too much for us to handle. He allowed to them play free and put on a show. They did exactly that every single night, with their famous lob play from the tipoff where Johnson tipped it to Kinney and he threw a lob to Rayvonte to start off every game. Everyone knew it was coming, but couldn't stop it, and it worked almost every time they did it.

They were most definitely the show, and I don't regret my decision of attending Central with my best friends at all because we were the underdogs.

We took on that challenge head up every time with no fear. They were just better than us, evident by the Chargers winning a Class 3A state championship in 2009.

So once again, shoutout to coach Tim Lavin for his amazing career and being one of the only coaches to bring a state championship to our community.

Much respect coach.