Lake Norman & Mooresville

Devils' guard couldn't resist football season

Knowing his future is in basketball, Shawn Lester decided to sit out his last football season.

But that didn't last long.

Sitting down with a friend, Blue Devils' quarterback Deonte Black, to watch tape from a scrimmage, Lester realized he couldn't just quit football.

"I didn't want to leave them hanging," said Lester, explaining that he knew he could help the team at wide receiver.

After leading 4A regional runner-up Mooresville High in receiving yards this season, Lester is back on the hardwood to try to cement his legacy for the Blue Devils.

First, he and the other football players on the basketball team are trying to catch up after missing the first few weeks of practice during their playoff run.

"It's been tough in everything from chemistry to fitness," Mooresville coach Michael Micklow said of the adjustment. "There's a big difference between football shape and basketball shape."

Micklow isn't worried that will affect his team, explaining that his players have worked hard in practice. Coming off a successful year on the football field has also instilled a winner's mentality that could pay off on the court, he said.

"That's one thing about football: It teaches these kids a lot of toughness," said Micklow.

Lester, who led the Blue Devils with nearly 18 points per game last season, is the centerpiece of the veteran Mooresville team.

The 6-3 UNC Charlotte signee is an athletic guard with a proficient shooting stroke. Lester said he's worked on becoming better at attacking the basket while playing this summer for the CP3 All-Stars AAU team.

"I look for that more, instead of my jump shot," said Lester. "I like to shoot, but I can use my strength to get to the hole more."

Micklow noticed his star player's strength early in the season, but the sixth-year Mooresville coach has been most impressed by the senior's leadership.

That's a role Lester takes seriously, knowing he's a role model for his teammates.

"I try to keep everyone focused," the 18-year-old said. "We ain't here playing around."

Lester is taking ownership of the team because he wants to have a memorable season to close out his and the seven other seniors' careers as Blue Devils.

"I don't want to go out like last year, in the first round," Lester said, recalling last season's early playoff exit. "Not on my senior year."

He'll have help in returning starters Ralph Montgomery, a 6-3 sophomore forward, and Dre Howell, a 6-4 junior forward who has been recovering from a broken thumb he suffered on the football field.

Losing the team's second-leading scorer, Isaiah Johnson, to graduation is a big blow for Mooresville, as the point guard had also been a leader for the team.

With his and four other players' departures, Micklow said, some of last year's role players will be needed to play larger roles for Mooresville.

Senior point guards Brandon Bego and Reggae Samuel will be needed to distribute and take care of the basketball. Classmate Kendrick Johnson should help with his shooting and his leadership.

Mike Warren, a 6-2 senior Statesville transfer, could also contribute with his rebounding and wing play.

Expectations are high for Blue Devils. Lester hopes his team develops into a conference contender and gives West Charlotte, easily the I-Meck favorite, a run.

"We've gotta want it," said Lester. "That will be the difference-maker."

Last season, West Charlotte focused on stopping Lester and forcing the other Blue Devils to beat them. Limiting Lester to two points in their first meeting and 14 and 15 in their next two, the strategy paid off as Mooresvile lost all three of their games against the Lions.

That's why it's important for players other than Lester to be more efficient this season.

But Micklow said the key to competing for a conference championship will be their defense.

"Our offense is going to take care of itself. We know we can make buckets," said Micklow. "But we have to also play good team defense."