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Will LeeMaster and Yeni Trier win the 3rd place match?


CHAMPAIGN — It wasn’t a given that Will LeeMaster would start for New Trier, let alone be a senior leader.

After all, LeeMaster didn’t even get any playing time as a substitute last season. He could only watch as his teammates won the Class 4A third-place game.

“I played in the trial team and often went up to the coaches after training and asked them what they saw in me as a player,” he said. “They told me I’m not good enough to go on the field right now. I didn’t take it that seriously. But I used it as motivation.”

Indeed, the 6-foot-4 LeeMaster has developed into a player the Trevians could not do without. With his thick skin and voracious appetite, he became a co-captain and stepped up this season, helping New Trier repeat its success in 4A.

LeeMaster contributed eight points, six rebounds, a block and a steal as the Trevians defeated Palatine 53-35 in the third-place game at State Farm Center on Friday night.

“If I had told myself at the beginning of my junior season that I would start this team as captain, I would never have believed it,” he said. “I’m so grateful to where I’ve come.”

LeeMaster made its presence felt in the first quarter as New Trier (30-8) took an early lead. He had two deflections that led to steals, a shot at the basket, a blocked shot, a throw-in for possession and a shot assist to junior guard Colby Smith, who hit a 3-point shot off the high post. .

It was one of 11 three-pointers the Trevians made against Palatine (28-10). Sophomore guard Danny Houlihan hit four of those for a team-high 12 points. LeeMaster took no action.

“I didn’t care about scoring goals, to be honest,” he said. “Nobody is going to remember the guy who scored 20 points and lost the game, so it’s great to be there and contribute.”

New Trier’s Will LeeMaster looks to throw a pass in the Class 4A state semifinal against Homewood-Flossmoor on Friday, March 8, 2024, at State Farm Center in Champaign. (Vincent D. Johnson/Pioneer Press)

LeeMaster went scoreless during New Trier’s 40-35 rout of Homewood-Flossmoor in the state semifinal just hours earlier. But he had a game-high seven assists and five rebounds. LeeMaster’s passes set up six backdoor layups, reflecting one of the skills he added this season.

“We run our offense through him and he does most of the dirty work,” New Trier coach Scott Fricke said. “We talked to him and he asked what it takes to play. We said, ‘You’ve got to be the toughest kid, the strongest kid and bring the most energy. You’ve got to go after every offensive rebound.’ And that’s exactly what he did.”

LeeMaster decided to reshape his body during the offseason. The self-described “thin kid” gained so much weight that he weighed over 200 pounds over a period of several months. Protein shakes became routine for LeeMaster and he ate a lot of pizza of his own choice.

“I spoke Jake Fiegen and Quinn Finerty (two seniors last season) and they told me to ‘eat until I’m full and then eat some more,'” LeeMaster said. “I continued to eat whatever I could. You can ask any of the guys on this team. I probably eat the most food you’ve ever seen.

LeeMaster broke the team record this season with averages of 5.3 rebounds and 3.2 assists.

“I spent hours in the gym playing basketball, trying to work on my game,” he said. “You can control your energy, and that was my role on this team, to be the energy guy, get the rebounds and pick up the crumbs.”

New Trier's William Leemaster (12) stands up to make a field goal against Palatine in the Class 4A third-place game Friday, March 8, 2024, at the State Farm Center in Champaign.  (For Vincent D. Johnson/Pioneer Press)
New Trier’s Will LeeMaster (12) shoots against Palatine in the Class 4A third-place game on Friday, March 8, 2024, at the State Farm Center in Champaign. (Vincent D. Johnson/Pioneer Press)

But LeeMaster’s work habits have not changed. His hard work didn’t go unnoticed, often tackling 6-10 senior center Tyler Van Gorp last season.

“He would give 110% every rep,” said standout sophomore guard Christopher Kirkpatrick. “I thought he was crazy. I always respected him personally for that and told him so. He’s just someone who works really hard.

“We need more people like him in this program. He is an amazing man.”

Steve Reaven is a freelance reporter.


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