Luke Lovelady stood about 5 foot 4 in the eighth grade.
Reid Roelofs was 5-3 as a freshman.
They were both guards then. They still are now — except Lovelady shot up to 6 foot 7 and Roelofs to 6 foot 5.
Few Class 2B teams have post players that size, let alone guards. They are Life Christian’s top two scorers because how do you guard them?
“Nobody in our league has anything like this,” Roelofs said.
They can shoot, dribble and dunk. Really, the only thing they don’t do is post up (though Lovelady insists he’s much improved on the low block).
The typical rationale would be to stick the two tallest players as close to the hoop as possible. However, Life Christian’s lone true post is 6-foot-4 CJ Kovacs — and even he will swing to the wing occasionally.
Just what is coach Mark Lovelady doing?
“I’ve always been one of the coaches who wants to design and set up stuff around his players — it’s not something kids have to mold into,” said the coach, who is Luke’s father. “If I’ve got players who can play the wing at 6-7, we are going to play them on the wing.”
Luke Lovelady, a junior, has always played guard. Never the post until at times this season.
When Luke was 5-4, Mark Lovelady considered him one of those scrappy, hustling and coachable types that wasn’t blessed with a great frame.
Only Luke then grew almost 10 inches in one year and went from a size nine shoe to size 13. He said he got Osgood-Schlatter disease because of it, giving him painful lumps below his kneecaps. It was so painful he took his summer AAU season off.
“None of the parents recognized me when I came back,” Luke said.
Mark Lovelady said he grew from 5-4 his freshman year at Steilacoom to 6-4. But that was over four years. Not like his two-time 2B Pacific League MVP son, who averaged 22.3 points, 14.5 rebounds, 4.3 assists, 4.1 steals and 2.3 blocks in the regular season.
The coach wonders if Luke’s leap is attributed to cereal and chocolate milk. Or to those two full carts from Costco twice a month.
“We have six of us in the family and he eats as much as the rest of us combined,” Mark Lovelady said. “He’ll eat dinner, come back and eat a corn dog, then get a big bowl of cereal and some chocolate milk. He eats so much food.
“Kind of our strategy as parents is to ship him off as much as possible on the weekends.”
Roelofs said he, too, went through growing pains when he shot from 5-3 to 6-3 in two summers. He’s now 6-5.
He rarely plays in the post. But he averages 13.2 points thanks to his ability to attack bigger defenders off the dribble or pull up for a 3-pointer. He’s headed to Southern Nazarene University in Oklahoma to play football next fall.
“I was a point guard before I grew,” Roelofs said.
No. 3 Life Christian (23-2) will play Lind-Ritzville/Sprague (18-10) in a 2B state quarterfinal game at 7:15 p.m. Thursday at the Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena. Last season, Life Christian lost its quarterfinal game, then bounced back to win the next two games to earn fourth place.
This season, only four other quarterfinal teams have two players at least 6-5, but none list two players above 6-5 who both play guard — like Luke Lovelady and Roelofs.
Mark Lovelady said he changed his design this year to have Luke or Roelofs dribble up the court themselves when they grab a defensive rebound.
“We put kids in quote-unquote positions, but at the end of the day we got Luke passing the ball from the wing, then going down and posting up,” Mark Lovelady said.
He said this is the first year he’s had two of his players dunk in the same game.
“It’s really fun when you have two kids who can handle the ball, shoot and get to the basket that are as tall as those guys,” Mark Lovelady said.
“When you see 4A and 3A kids posting their dunk videos all of the time, it’s nice to be able to post some of your own. I mean, we had two games where Reid and Luke both had dunks in a game. You just don’t see that at this level.”
The Eagles take their unique lineup to Spokane for the second consecutive year, only this time they are planning to not get caught up in the experience.
“Last year, seeing all these 2B teams that bring their whole town out, it was kind of crazy,” Luke said. “We went to our regional game and it was standing-room only. We were like, ‘This is supposed to be 2B, man.’
“I think that’s the biggest thing was learning to play under pressure and play in the Arena. Now we’re ready.”
TJ Cotterill: 253-597-8677
CLASS 2B BOYS
Thursday-Saturday at the Spokane Arena
G3: Lind-Ritzville/Sprague (17-10) vs. Life Christian (23-2), 7:15 p.m. Thursday
Tournament lowdown: No tournament perhaps has a more overwhelming favorite than Brewster (24-0). The Bears have three seniors who average in double figures, led by 6-foot-7 forward Josh Hammons. Brewster ended two-time defending 2B champion Morton-White Pass’ 60-game winning streak earlier this season at the SunDome Shootout. Both teams could meet in the semifinals. … Life Christian Academy has never played in a state title game — but has a great path in its 11th state appearance. Junior 6-foot-7 forward Luke Lovelady (21.6 ppg) is an outstanding inside-outside threat.
CLASS 1B GIRLS
Thursday-Saturday at the Spokane Arena
G3: Evergreen Lutheran (20-2) vs. Taholah (15-7), 7:15 p.m. Thursday
Tournament lowdown: Colton has won the past seven 1B titles — and a Moser guard has led the school to each of them. This season it is senior point guard Zoe Moser. Colton had its 79-game winning streak ended by Class 2B powerhouse Okanogan in the regular season. … Evergreen Lutheran survived a 35-34 nail-biter over Selkirk in the regional round to advance to its third consecutive trip to Spokane. Senior forward Emily Holder (19.7 ppg, 11.1 rpg) plays anywhere the Eagles need her — from point guard to center.