Starkey looking to change the culture of Lake Forest basketball

FELTON – During his 14 years of coaching boys’ basketball at Smyrna High School, Michael Starkey established a culture of winning.

Now, in his second year at Lake Forest High School, he’s looking to do the same for the Spartans’ boys’ basketball squad.

“We’re just trying to change the culture like we did at Smyrna, and we’re seeing that coming along,” Coach Starkey said “The way you change the culture is you play teams that are better than you. You get back in the gym and work hard every day.”

Lake Forest finished 10-10 a season ago, Starkey’s first season at the helm. The .500 record was another step in the right direction following four straight losing seasons. From 2011-14, the program went a combined 20-60.

Heading into year two, Starkey hopes to changes things, and he says it all starts with the details.

“Winning is in the details,” he said.

Last Saturday’s tri-scrimmage with Smyrna – the program Starkey helped build for over a decade – and St. Mark’s, is proof of that.

Tri-scrimmages, especially early enough into the winter season where the teams haven’t even been issued official uniforms yet, are designed to give the players a first look at competition.

Saturday’s tri-scrimmage marked the first time this year’s squad matched up with another school, and it’s usually a great learning experience for the coaching staff and young players alike.

“In practice, when you’re going against yourself or JV, they think I’m crazy when I tell them it’s not good enough,” said Starkey. “So it’s just the little things, and it starts with just playing catch with each other. There’s a whole series of things that I’m taking away from today, but we had to get exposed in order to for me to be more effective on Monday [in practice].”

This year’s varsity Lake team will rely on senior Cameron Lewis to lead the way, and Starkey hopes a few other guys can step up as well.

“Cam Lewis is a three-year varsity guy,” Starkey said “So he’s quite a talent, he’ll get us quite a few points. He’s a big body, and handles well. He does a lot of things well. And then we have a lot of good athletes. I’m not sure who’s going to show up night in and night out, but he’s our constant.”

While Lewis could provide the much-needed leadership on the court, Starkey hopes to see production from all five positions this season.

“Isaiah Morris is a kid that we’re expecting to do good things for us this year,” he said. “We’re in the process of turning athletes into basketball players. You’re going to take your lumps along the way, but we’ll be ready for the beginning of the season.”

While it wasn’t originally part of his plan to take over the Lake Forest program – having taken a step back from coaching at Smyrna to coach his kids and focus on being a father – he fully welcomes the challenge of turning Lake’s basketball program around.

“God puts you where he needs you,” he said. “It wasn’t my intention at all. It doesn’t make sense from a coaching standpoint, moving from Smyrna to come down here. But I’ve been in this position before and I feel like I can bring that experience here to Lake.”

Sports editor Ben Heck can be reached at

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