Favorite athlete: Kyrie Irving
Favorite team: Boston Celtics
Favorite memory competing in sports: States last year was really fun and it made me really realize there’s competition everywhere
Most embarrassing/funniest thing that happened while competing in sports: When I was in middle school, I accidentally tried to score on my on team’s basket.
Music on mobile device: My favorite music is rap
Words to live by: “Nobody’s better than the team.”
One goal before turning 30: To be comfortable and not have to worry financially
One thing people don’t know about me: I’m a very competitive person
By Ed Morrone
It’s no big surprise that Lamont Hasker and Bensalem High School turned out to be a match made in heaven.
Both know a thing or two about working tirelessly to overcome obstacles and adversity.
Mike McCabe is in his fourth season as head basketball coach of the Owls. By his own admission, Bensalem is one of the more challenging places to helm a program in Suburban One. The league is as deep as it is talented, which makes it difficult enough to make deep postseason runs; on top of that, there are outside factors that come into play, such as academic eligibility issues that have little to do with overall skill level.
“I had this conversation with Truman’s head coach, but a lot of times you can’t rely on kids because of academic issues,” McCabe said. “I’ve been at Bensalem for four years, and it’s a tough place to coach.”
McCabe wasn’t complaining at all; rather, he was just stating facts, and the conversation was relevant as it pertained to Hasker, his star player and lone returning starter from last year’s senior-heavy group that broke the mold by winning 18 games, good for berths in both the District One tournament (the Owls won their first game on a buzzer-beating three-pointer over local rival Pennsbury) and PIAA state playoffs.
To get back to that point, McCabe will lean heavy on Hasker, whose elevated play last season as a junior pushed the team to another level.
“Last year, Lamont turned our season around with how well he played and how much he got after it,” McCabe said.
Through 13 games this season, the Owls sit at 6-7 overall and 3-3 in the SOL National Conference, good for fourth place out of seven. Led by Hasker’s 13 points and seven rebounds per game, Bensalem is keeping its collective heads above water despite the graduation of eight seniors, which included 80 percent of the starting lineup.
It will be a steep climb for the Owls to get back to where they were a year ago, but as McCabe stressed, “The way Lamont’s been playing, without him I don’t know if we would have three wins right now.”
Hasker was a late bloomer, not signing up for organized basketball until he was in seventh grade, and almost immediately he found the odds stacked against him. He was cut from that seventh grade team, only to barely see the court after making the squad the following year.
When Hasker got to high school, he was quickly derailed by a foot injury that required surgery. According to McCabe, Hasker really began to show a lot of growth as a player come sophomore year; however, the player ran into some academic issues that have shadowed him at times during his high school tenure.
“Things don’t always come easy to Lamont, academically,” McCabe said. “But what I love the most about him is that he’s never stopped fighting. He’s been through a lot, yet he’s one of the nicest kids you’ll ever meet. He always looks me in the eye, shakes my hand and asks me how I’m doing when he sees me. Just a wonderful kid to be around, and he’s experienced so much growth, not even as an athlete, but as a person. He’s come such a long way in how he handles and carries himself.”
Hasker maintained that there’s a direct correlation between basketball and the maturity he’s exhibited in his life as he’s gotten older.
“I think I’m turning myself around as a person, just becoming more mature and being more of a leader for my team,” Hasker said. “Even after the season we had last year, our coaches put it in my head that I still had to work hard, even after we hit that buzzer beater in the playoffs. As a moment in time, it was a good time, but I knew we had to keep working hard toward what came next.
“It’s been a team effort. My coaches have helped me build my confidence, and all of the other players on the team worked hard all offseason in order to keep succeeding. To me, a good leader leads by example. He works hard 100 percent of the time, whether it’s running drills in practice or is down by 20 points in a game. A good leader knows that you can never take a break.”
The same can be said for Hasker in the classroom. Taking longer to grasp the material at hand can and has been frustrating at times, but in no way did Hasker ever contemplate throwing up his hands in exasperation and giving up. That’s just not who he is as a person — he’s a worker bee, a lunch pail and hard hat kind of kid, and the results have been evident both for Hasker as a person and the basketball team that he leads.
None of it has been easy, which has been a valuable lesson on life for the senior: the older you get and the further you progress in life, the harder things are going to get.
“I’ve matured in the classroom the same way I have on the basketball court,” Hasker said. “If I get something wrong in a class, I’ll ask the teacher to redo an assignment or if there’s anything I can do to make it up. For me, it’s all about communicating, and that’s a much better option than just giving up.”
Hasker is hoping all that hard work on the court and in the classroom pays off. He expressed a desire to play basketball at the next level, hoping his increasingly strong play for the Owls catches the eye of collegiate coaches. When asked what he does when he’s not playing basketball, Hasker almost seemed confused by the question before responding, “Basketball, that’s pretty much all I do.”
He said that he hasn’t given too much thought to future career paths yet, but did mention that his uncle is an electrician, and that may be something that interests Hasker down the line. That, or maybe something business-related, but the fact remains that he is singularly focused on getting the Owls back to the playoffs. Should he lead them back to the promised land, Hasker seems pretty confident he’ll find himself on some collegiate radars.
“I want to play basketball for sure, it’s just a matter of finding the right school for me,” the 6-foot-4 forward said. “For me to get to that next level, I have to keep working and do even more than I’m doing right now. I view my weaknesses as shooting, and also getting quicker, so that’s what I’m focusing on. I want my shot to feel like it’s automatic.”
After watching Hasker play with so many talented, mature seniors a season ago, McCabe is delighted to see him get the opportunity to captain the ship. It might have been difficult to envision Hasker in this type of role say, two years ago, but he’s earned the opportunity with a relentless work ethic and drive to become the best version of himself that he can be.
“Every coach on our staff would tell you the same thing, that the kid just works so hard and has come such a long way,” McCabe said. “He’s put the time in and has never once complained about anything we’ve thrown his way. When he feels he doesn’t play well, he’s actually come and apologized to us. We know how hard he’s trying out there. Hat’s off to him, he’s such a good kid.
“Our message to everyone, especially Lamont, is that in life you’re not here to do it on your own. We’ve seen it both in the classroom and on the basketball court that sometimes he’s really struggled to understand what is being taught to him. But when you see that light go off, that’s what’s really special for me as his coach. He struggled academically for a while, yet he never gave up on himself. What I’ll miss most about coaching him is that work ethic he brings, because he is always ready to get after it.”
Hasker has learned many valuable lessons the last few years, none perhaps more valuable than the need to be a strong communicator, as well as that talent alone will only take him so far.
“All of it has helped make my motor stronger,” Hasker said. “It’s why I’m always thinking about extra sit-ups, more push-ups and lifting. My talent, that’s just not enough. I’ve got to keep working, and I’ve bought into that.
“I just want to go back to the playoffs, try to go to states one more time. One game at a time, one possession at a time, and just keep taking things seriously. If I keep striving to work harder every day, then I think I’ll get to the level where I need to be.”