Recognized by many as “the greatest Alton basketball player of all time”, Kavon Lacey is synonymous with greatness in the Riverbend’s basketball scene, but he never let that hype go to his head.
“I can accept the title of greatest Alton player of all time, but I never take credit for it.” says Lacey. “There was so much before me: family members, players in the community, those who shaped and molded my game. I accept it as a community award. It’s bigger than me. I’ve had a great career here playing in the Alton area, the title is humbling.”
His time playing and coaching at the University of Evansville added to that profile. Known there as a “team leader on and off the floor”, his time playing at Evansville earned him a role as Director of Basketball Operations and assistant coach.
“It’s an experience that a lot of people don’t understand.” Lacey noted. “It’s glamorous and glorious on TV, but so much goes into that. From travel to meals, game planning and scheduling, it’s really changed my viewpoint on high school. Going up a level everything’s different; expectations are different. Being in the NCAA is about knowing that realm of student athletes and understanding what it looks like for the student athlete. The day to day life, work load, school load, weight training program, everything in college basketball becomes part of your life, and for coaches too. Recruiting, going on the road and watching games, it’s a difficult experience. Going through that experience really prepared me to go into the next realm of working and coaching in the collegiate atmosphere.”
For his efforts at Alton and Evansville, last May Lacey was inducted into the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame, joining an elite group of players and coaches in the state’s history.
“Yeah it’s a big moment” said Lacey. “If you think of our state as a whole, the great basketball players that come out of here and Chicago like Derrick Rose, Kevin Garnett and Kendall Gill, to be mentioned as one of the all time greats in the state is a big accomplishment. I always go back to my family and the community, without them I wouldn’t be in a position to accept it. I want people to understand that it’s a great honor, but I didn’t get there by myself.”
Last October he returned home so to speak, and now resides on the Trailblazer bench as an assistant to coach Doug Stotler.
“To go from Evansville and being in that world and then coming down here, a Division 1 junior college, you’re playing against great competition.” remarked Lacey. “We have a lot of talent in this area and a lot of guys in this area that don’t think they have an opportunity at the next level, that they can’t go to a four-year university and that ball stops after high school. It’s great coming back and seeing familiar faces in the community and helping some of our young kids that might not think they can play at the next level or even go to college.”
Turning to the Trailblazer men’s team he joined the staff of at the beginning of this season, Lacey says numbers aren’t everything.
“We have a great group of guys.” asserts Lacey. “The record doesn’t say how good the guys are, but the record is what it is, and we can’t change it. Coach Stotler and I preach to our guys that we have to trust the process we have, and that’s what our guys do. We can’t go back and say ‘oh we almost had em’ or ‘oh we got cheated’, it’s a process that we continue to work on. We’re a better team today than when I got here in October. The guys are great, great students, they want to learn, they’re hungry, they’re eager. I think that’s all you can really ask for.”
Despite his reputation around the gym, Lacey doesn’t want to stop helping once he’s off the court. Not just a coach, Kavon Lacey also works in adult education here at Lewis and Clark.
“It’s not always through sports” says Lacey. “Maybe through academics, maybe from seeing what else is out there, and me being someone from this area who’s gone on to college and seen how organizations and processes work at the collegiate level it’s about instilling some of that information and knowledge in the communities here. (in adult education) I’m working with adults who dropped out of high school, or are working toward a GED or certificate or trade training, just letting them know that there’s more opportunities there and other options that they may not have known before or been used to.”