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Lake Orion Bounces Back After Early-Season Coaching Switch

By: SCOTT M. BURNSTEIN, February 4, 2022, 9:00 am

Lake Orion — After an early-season coaching switch and some much-needed rejuvenation over the holiday break, Lake Orion’s boys basketball team caught fire. With an added pep to their step, the Dragons (8-4, 1-0) haven’t lost since December and are riding a six-game winning streak into this week’s action out of the OAA White.

Last winter, Lake Orion won the OAA Blue under then second-year head coach Joel Schroeder. This season, the Dragons opened the campaign 2-3 and Schroeder stepped down in the days before Christmas following a dispute with a parent.

Enter Schroeder’s best friend and assistant coach Jose Andrades, a man with experience taming young colts on the hardwood from his days in the OAA at Birmingham Seaholm in the 2000s and first couple years of the 2010s. In the wake of Schroeder’s resignation, Andrades was named the program’s new head coach and the club immediately responded to the adversity with collective positivity and resolve.

The Dragons dropped Andrades’ first game at the helm to Pontiac Notre Dame Prep in a non-conference affair. Besides that, they are spotless with Andrades captaining the ship.

“The situation is what it is, the kids reacted by controlling what they could control and just putting in the work to get better and move on,” Andrades said. “Everything was already set in place for me to come in as head coach and succeed so that credit goes to Joel. The framework was there. I already knew and had a relationship with the players. So, it was easy to jump in and usher in a smooth transition. We’re playing with a ton of spirit right now. We’re sharing the basketball. Everyone is embracing and fulfilling their roles on this team and we’re rolling. It’s been a lot of fun and when you are having fun coaching basketball and your players are having fun competing, you know you’re doing something right.”

Andrades won an OAA White title at Seaholm in 2010 with future pro Richaud Pack (Maryland). He developed Phoenix Suns forward Paris Bass (U-D Mercy) in the years following Pack’s graduation. When Schroeder took the Lake Orion job in 2019 (on the heels of resurrecting the Pontiac program), Andrades was his first call to extend an offer to join his staff.

“We are best friends and we watch each other’s backs,” Andrades said. “He’s always watched my back. I have his back this year.”

Andrades benefits from superior senior leadership in small forward Alden Ritt and point guard Malachi Grandberry. The 6-foot-8 Ritt, a recent Grand Valley State commit and one of the top wings in Metro Detroit, is averaging 19 points and 8 rebounds per game.

“The circumstances weren’t ideal, we’re making the most of them and playing really fundamentally-sound basketball though,” Ritt said. “This is an unselfish group, so that gave us a head start in getting this thing turned around before it was too late. We’ve dedicated ourselves to proving our toughness and proving our resiliency.”

Ritt’s improved his rebounding and defense this season.

“Alden is as much of a match-up problem for other teams than he ever has been before,” Andrades said. “He’s a very smart player and he’s diversified himself. His work on the glass and in our defensive schemes are just as impressive as his scoring binges.”

Complimenting Ritt on the wing is the rock-solid backcourt of Grandberry and junior shooting guard D.J. Morrow.

“Malachi runs the show for us and he’s beginning to show flashes of being a very dangerous threat scoring the ball,” Andrades said. “He gets us into our sets and sets our pace.”

Big fellas Blake Liddel and Trevor Witt (Saginaw Valley State football signee) patrol the post and give Lake Orion an edge in the grit and grime department. C.J. Witt (Northern Michigan football signee) is the team’s defensive stopper. The Witts are twin brothers. Nate Havrilla spells Grandberry at the point guard spot.

“We’re a well-rounded team,” Ritt said. “We’ve shown a lot of character this past month. You’ve got to remember though the season is far from over and there’s more work to be done before we can be satisfied with how this year turned out.”