Demetrius Lake, Holland’s junior guard, overcomes hardships, becomes one of the state’s top scorers
By Steve Vedder
Holland – It was the type of heart-wrenching decision no teenager should be forced to make.
After a rugged early childhood that included barely knowing his father and the murder of his uncle, Demetrius Lake still faced the toughest decision of his life: either stay with his mother and his brothers and sister and move to a new city or follow his dream of playing basketball with a new guardian in an environment where he was comfortable.
Lake, a junior at Holland High School, chose basketball. A year later, he hasn’t looked back.
"It was definitely tough on me to leave my mother and my brothers and sister knowing I wasn’t going to see them like I was used to," Lake said.
Lake’s story includes a rocky beginning but fate smiled upon him. Born in Illinois, Lake moved to Holland with his mother and three siblings when he was six. The dominant male figure in his life, an uncle, Terrence Williams, helped him find basketball, but was murdered when Lake was in the eighth grade. By then Lake had become a young basketball phenom, scoring well over 200 points in eight games on his sixth grade team, and averaging 20 points per game as an eighth grader. He was summoned to varsity midway through his freshman season and in one of his first games hit a game-winning 3-pointer against rival Holland Christian.
Just when things seemed to going well for Lake, the bottom fell out. Halfway through his sophomore season, Lake’s mother, who had raised four children virtually by herself, decided to move to Chicago to seek a better job. That left Lake with a choice that tore at him. He could move with the family and hope to find a high school where he was comfortable or stay in Holland and pursue basketball in familiar surroundings. He eventually chose to stay and found a family when Holland coach Paul Chapman stepped up to become Lake’s guardian.
The result has been more than Lake could have hoped for. He went on to average 24.5 points per game and made all-state while making a smooth transition to living with Chapman and his wife, Lori.
"Coach opened up his home because they obviously cared about my future," Lake said. "My mother has been like a mother and father both to me. She played basketball in school and knew the game. I miss my mom, but she had to move for a better job and be closer to her family."
Meanwhile, Lake, a 5-10 junior guard, had developed into one of the state’s top scorers. He’s averaging 34.5 points through this season’s first seven games, including back-to-back 44-point efforts against Cedar Springs and Grand Rapids West Catholic. He also had 42 points against Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood.
Whatever his basketball accomplishments, Lake’s family is constantly in his thoughts. He wears the No. 5 jersey in honor of his uncle, a former player whom Lake credits for turning him into the player he has become.
"He’s one of the reasons why I love the game and play so hard," Lake said.
Chapman said the decision to take Lake into the family household was a no-brainer. While Chapman admits he’s heard scattered grumbling whether the decision was more about helping the basketball team and less about lending a much-needed helping hand, he said the decision to become a guardian was the right one.
"He needed a place and he wanted to be with us," Chapman said. "It was a natural fit. There’s been no blow-back; people have supported us."
Chapman said he first saw Lake play in middle school. There was little doubt even then that Lake could be outstanding.
"We kinda thought he would be special. There was a competitiveness about him," Chapman said. "He can impact the game in a number of ways."
Chief among those skills is shooting a basketball, a skill with which Lake has sacrificed countless hours. Lake has participated in AAU since the seventh grade and figures he takes about 500 shots a day during the off-season. While scoring will always be his No. 1 asset, Lake said he’s worked diligently to become an all-around player. He cringes when he’s called a pure shooter. Instead, Lake said he works hard to keep his teammates involved in the offense.
He’s greatly improved his passing skills, shoots in the 40-percent from the field and has made 88 percent of his free throws. As a result, Chapman said Lake has transformed himself from a shooter to someone who can score from virtually anywhere on the floor. He’s hit 25 3-pointers this season.
"He’s quick off the dribble, good at attacking the lane and is very efficient at the free throw lane," Chapman said. "He also has the ability to handle the ball and get to different places on the floor."
Lake, who has made visits to Northern Illinois and DePaul, said he’s appreciative of having a future and recognizing what he’s had to overcome in life.
"I really do," he said. "I know God has put me in this position and that there is life in my life now. People have helped me to have a future where I can do well in school and still play basketball. I think people see me not as a good basketball player, but as a student. I like that."