Hightower raising the bar

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Anyone who is a fan of Missouri Western basketball knows senior Lavon Hightower has been playing at a high level since he arrived on campus in the fall of 2017. What might surprise you is the leading scorer from a year ago is significantly better so far this year.

Through the first nine games of the season, Hightower has increased his points per game, rebounds, assists, free throw percentage and three-point percentage. He has fellow teammates, like junior guard Beau Baker, wanting to know his secret.

“I don’t know what he did over the summer,” Baker said. “I don’t know what shooting mechanics he did to help him with his jump shot, but whatever he did I need to get with him on it.”

Missouri Western’s first-year head coach Sundance Wicks is not as surprised as his players are about Hightower’s elevated game. Wicks knew what kind of player Hightower was last year, and the two worked together before the season to make him even better.

“I expect it. That’s who he’s been,” Wicks said. “The first thing I did was look at our analytics database from synergy and found he was a really good player regardless of scheme or team he played for. For Lavon, I just told him we were going to make him a more efficient player this year than he was last year.”

Three-point percentage might be the most impressive stat Hightower has improved on. He shot 38 percent and made 29 total threes throughout the entire previous season. Those are not bad numbers, but this year Hightower is shooting 47 percent and has already made 27 threes through nine games. Wicks and Hightower made efficiency a point of emphasis, and it has shown so far.

Wicks also thinks age and love for basketball have allowed Hightower to make better decisions on the court this year.

“The more you’re around the game, the more you’re a student of the game. You study the difference between a good shot and a bad shot,” Wicks said. “It’s understanding that you could pass up a good shot during a possession and end up getting it back for a great shot. So, for [Lavon], he’s just been taking great shots, and as a good player, you also have the ability to make tough shots.”

Hightower does not like to brag about his success this season and likes to keep his focus more on the team. As the leader of the locker room, his teammates rally around him and the way he carries himself.

“Off the court, he’s a pretty goofy guy,” Baker said. “He’s a fun guy to be around. You love having a dude who’s your best player on the team, and off the court is very humble and very focused in the classroom as well.”

Hightower has not only picked up where he left off last season, but through the first third of the season, he has soared above and beyond. With conference play officially tipping-off later this week, it will be important for Hightower to continue to play at a high level and help the Griffons assert themselves in the MIAA.