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Photo by Dan Cruz/For AdVantage News
Alton High School graduate Kavon Lacey is in his third year as the director of basketball operations for the Evansville Purple Aces.
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Photo by Dan Cruz/For AdVantage News
Purple Aces’ coach Marty Simmons, left, guided Lacey during his years (2007-11) at Evansville.
ST. LOUIS – Kavon Lacey enjoys what he’s doing and the Evansville Purple Aces like what he’s doing for them.
Lacey, 24, and a 2007 Alton High graduate, is in his third year as the director of basketball operations for the Aces, members of the Missouri Valley Conference. They defeated Drake, 69-61, on Thursday night in their opener of Arch Madness, the MVC tournament, at Scottrade Center.
Top-seeded Wichita State then ousted the 14-19 Purple Aces, 80-58 in Friday’s quarterfinals.
“I love every minute and moment of it,” Lacey said of coordinating men’s basketball at Evansville. “My job description has changed a lot since the first year. I’m more involved with checking on the NCAA rules and the things that we do when we go on the road.”
Purple Aces’ coach Marty Simmons, who guided Lacey during his years (2007-11) at Evansville, said his former starting guard is an integral part of the program.
“Kavon’s kind of an organizer for us and he’s awesome at getting things done,” said Simmons, a former head coach at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. “He’s doing a lot of things with travel and he does a terrific job at it.”
That’s music to Lacey’s ears. The former AHS two-time standout – football and basketball – has found his niche in the coaching profession.
“It’s a great opportunity for me at a Division I level school,” Lacey said. “We have talented players and the other teams we play have talented players. It’s great to work with Coach Simmons. Our guys understand what he’s doing and they believe in him.”
While at Alton High, Lacey showcased his basketball talents in a number of ways. He still owns the school record of 1,499 points and helped the Redbirds post an 81-17 mark during his final three years. In football, he was a quarterback for three successful teams, including an 8-2 one in 2006.
“Every time I come back to Alton, I have the feeling that this is home,” Lacey said. “When I’m in town, all of those high school memories come back to me.”
He still follows the Redbirds, mainly since junior forward Carlos Anderson is a cousin. Lacey was disappointed to hear that they lost to Quincy in Wednesday’s regional quarterfinals. It stirred some memories.
“My junior season (2005-06), Quincy beat us on a buzzer-beater in the regional final at their place,” he said.
Lacey added, “But Alton had a great season and hats off to them for what they did. I think they will be good again next year. Carlos is back and he’s very talented. He does a lot for the team.”
Evansville should be darn good next season and even better in two years. The Purples Aces’ roster has no seniors. They boast two juniors, five sophomores and six freshmen. One of those first-year players is Blake Simmons, a 6-5 forward and Marty’s son.
“We have either the second- or third-youngest team in the country,” Lacey said. “There are a lot of talented players here and the sky’s the limit for them.
“We’re really proud of our guys.”
Lacey isn’t the only individual in the 10-team Valley tournament with a link to Alton. Northern Iowa’s Wes Washpun, a 6-1 senior guard from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, is the son of ex-AHS star Troy Washpun.
Dad teamed with John “Main” Smith of the 1979-80 Redbirds, outright champions of the Southwestern Conference. That squad finished 23-3, snared a regional title and had the fewest losses for an AHS squad since the 1958-59 Birds finished 26-2.