From the Sports Editor: Ex-Polytech hoop player Laster stars at Loyola, Md.

Loyola basketball-Eric Laster by .

Former Polytech High basketball standout Eric Laster is a senior guard at Loyola. (Loyola sports information/Brian Schneider)

Eric Laster had never been in a basketball arena that was so alive.

Kansas’ Phog Allen Fieldhouse was filled with 16,300 fans for the early December matchup.

They’d come out to see their fourth-ranked Jayhawks take care of Loyola that night.

“It was crazy,” said Laster, the former Polytech High All-Stater. “I couldn’t even hear myself on the court sometimes, it was that loud.”

And while they eventually lost by 33, Laster and his Loyola teammates hung tough for a while. When Laster buried a three-pointer to cap a 9-0 run, the Greyhounds were tied with Kansas, 34-34, late in the first half.

The Smyrna native had one of the best games of his career, collecting a team-high 16 points and eight rebounds.

“It was a great experience,” said Laster. “That was definitely one of the games I’ll always remember. That was probably the loudest — and biggest game — I’ve ever been in. Yeah, I’ll definitely remember that forever.”

Now that he’s a senior looking at the homestretch of his college career, there are a lot of memories that Laster will try to hold onto.

After this weekend, the Greyhounds (5-14) have only nine regular-season games remaining. Laster doesn’t know where the time has gone.

“It’s crazy how fast college goes by,” said the 6-foot-6 guard. “You don’t really notice it when you’re in college. But when your senior year comes, it finally hits you.”

Laster has a lot to be proud of from his four seasons at the Baltimore school.

The former Gatorade state Player of the Year has played in 106 career games, starting 61 of them. For his career, Laster has collected 779 points and 318 rebounds.

A year ago he was named the Greyhounds’ team MVP. That was pretty special for the junior.

“I tried my best last year to do whatever I could for the team,” said Laster. “To see it pay off like that, it made me feel good.”

This season hasn’t been so easy for Laster. He’s had to fight his way through more bumps and bruises than usual this winter.

But he’s still optimistic that Loyola can do something in the Patriot League tournament. Laster also wants to keep playing basketball in Europe after he graduates this spring.

He’s bigger and stronger than he was coming out of Polytech. Laster said he’s also learned how to compete at a higher level.

“College taught me how to play harder,” he said. “When I first got here, our coach, Jimmy Patsos, his whole thing was just play hard, no matter what. He was very passionate.

“I thought I was playing hard in high school, but I really didn’t know how to play hard until I came to college. It’s a big difference.”

Coach of the Year

As he stood up in front of his peers on Monday night, Mike Judy knew there was a lot of people to thank for the trophy he was holding.
The Smyrna High football coach had just been named the state’s Division I Coach of the Year.

Not bad for a guy who’s only in his second year as a head coach.

“These sorts of things, in my eyes, are about the team, it’s about my coaches and my players,” said Judy. “I just happen to be the guy that gets to accept the award.

“To have my name listed among the names of these guys who have won this award before is an unbelievable honor. It’s probably the best thing I’ve ever won, to be honest.”

Judy was happy that five players from Smyrna’s Division I state championship team were also honored as All-State players at Monday’s DIFCA banquet. He was also glad that Wesley College coach Mike Drass was on hand.

Judy said the head coaches that he played for — Dover High’s Jim Oxford and Drass — had a lot to do with him becoming a successful coach.

“I could speak an hour just on Coach Drass, all the stuff he does for people,” said Judy. “He’s a great guy. He acts like a father to so many kids. Just the wisdom and the knowledge that he drops on people carries on.

“I find a lot of times those things are coming out of me as I try to pass that wisdom on to these kids.”

Odds & ends

• Dover’s Madison Brengle found herself in some pretty good company after Angelique Kerber stunned Serena Williams, 6-4, 3-6, 6-4, to win the Australian Open women’s singles title on Saturday.

It was Kerber, the seventh seed from Germany, who beat Brengle, 6-1, 6-3, in the tournament’s third round.

• There’s at least one local connection to this year’s Super Bowl. Dover High grad Khary Darlington, who played for both Maryland and Delaware State, is a regional college scout for the Carolina Panthers.

The 36-year-old Darlington has been with the Panthers since 2003.

• Harrington-based horse, Wiggle It Jiggleit, was honored by Delaware’s House of Representatives and Senate on Tuesday.

Wiggle It Jiggleit was the standardbred horse of the year for 2015.

“This is truly an honor,” owner George Teague told legislators. “We got extremely lucky to have a horse like this and it’s been a fun ride. We appreciate the recognition.”

• Cape Henlopen High football player Julian Medina will be honored with the Buddy Hurlock Inspiration Award by the Delaware Sportswriters & Broadcasters Association.

The Vikings’ offensive lineman has dealt with autism his whole life.

Medina will be presented with the award at the DSBA’s 67th annual banquet, which will be held at noon on Feb. 15 at the Sheraton Wilmington South Hotel. Tickets are available for $30 at http://www.delasports.org/

Chris Coyne, who was a standout center on Delaware football teams in the mid-1980s, died suddenly earlier this month. He was only 50.

Along with winning several awards, Coyne had a free-agent tryout with the Indianapolis Colts in 1988.

• The Colonial Athletic Association didn’t do its limited fan base any favors by moving its men’s basketball tournament to Charleston, S.C. starting next year.

Instead of keeping the tourney in a central location — it’s been in Baltimore the last three years — it sent the event to its southern fringe.

No longer will fans just be able to jump in the car and get to the tourney if their team wins a game or two. Charleston is at least 450 miles away from six of the CAA’s 10 schools, including Delaware.

But even if fewer of their fans can actually make it, at least Colonial administrators can look forward to spending a nice weekend in South Carolina every March.

“It’s a good time of the year down there,” William & Mary athletic director Terry Driscoll told the Daily Press. “Baltimore’s a little chilly, so we’re hoping it’ll be more mild down there, which might be more attractive to people. Maybe our students on their way to Florida for break will stop on the way down.”

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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