Woodhouse has put H'fields on map
There is a joyful noise that echoes from the Harborfields High gym several days a week, beginning at 6 a.m. The squeak of a sneaker; the bounce of a ball; the swish of a net. Well before classes start, school is in session for senior point guard Lucas Woodhouse.
"I'm trying to improve my shooting as much as possible. Coming in early has really helped," said Woodhouse, a returning Newsday All-Long Island first-team choice who averaged more assists (11) than points (10) last season.
With the graduation of the top two scorers from a team that won the first Long Island championship in school history, he now must score more.
So Woodhouse, sometimes with coach Chris Agostino present and sometimes alone, takes as many as 500 shots during his morning sessions, with noticeable results.
He's improved his scoring average to 16.2 points, adding a nice mid-range jumper to a game that already features dazzling dribbling and passing skills. Those have not been neglected, either; Woodhouse averages 12.2 assists for the 8-2 Tornadoes.
"I probably could shoot more, but I like to get everyone involved and make the right plays at the right time," said Woodhouse, who has produced a double-double in every game, 10 in all. "At the next level, you're not going to blow by someone all the time for layups. You have to have range on your jump shot."
It was his ballhandling and floor leadership that drew the attention of Longwood University in Farmville, Va., which has been unaffiliated in Division I since its 2002-07 transition from Division II but has designs on eventually joining the Big South.
"I liked that it was an independent school that plays a great schedule and travels all over the country," said Woodhouse, a slender but tough 6-1, 165-pounder who was been on the varsity since the eighth grade. "They were the first school to offer me and they were the most consistent throughout the recruiting process. They came here more than once to watch me play. One time, they watched me work out at 6 in the morning."
That impressed Woodhouse, an admitted gym rat who started playing hoops at age 5 in a local church league and eventually outgrew his competition and had to play with older kids.
In his first middle-school game as a seventh-grader, Woodhouse scored 39 points. "It was pretty easy," he recalled.
Agostino said one of his coaches told him: " 'You gotta check this kid out.' We didn't know how good he really was, but after that game, I started watching a lot of his games. After the season, I sat down with his dad and said I thought it was a good idea to bring him up to varsity as an eighth-grader. He didn't play much those first two years and he was a little unhappy, but I told him to hang in there: 'In 10th grade, the ball is yours.' And that's what happened."
Woodhouse acknowledged that he was a scrawny kid in the eighth and ninth grades and wasn't big enough to get to the basket. "That's when I became a passer," he said. "You want to get those older guys the ball and keep them happy."
Now his passing is so sharp, his teammates must always be on edge. Woodhouse said with a grin, "I hit them in the head all the time in practice."
But in games, the Tornadoes have had few problems finishing Woodhouse's dishes. Harborfields scored 110 points in one game, is one of the highest-scoring teams on Long Island and, driven by Woodhouse, is strongly motivated to return to Glens Falls in March.
"He hates to lose. He's the most competitive kid that I've ever coached besides Jason Fraser," said Agostino, an assistant under his brother Jack at Amityville when Fraser led the Warriors to four straight state titles. "Luke gets mad when the kids don't play well and he holds them to a very high standard. A state championship is the one thing he hasn't done."
But Woodhouse's legacy already is etched in school lore. "Harborfields was a small school on the North Shore of Long Island that nobody really knew about. And Luke put us on the map," Agostino said. "I think he likes the challenge of putting Longwood on the map, too."
Just open that gym early.