Photography by Owen Jones.
SENIORS NOAH MCDAVID AND JEREMY GRIFFIN helped take the Lake Highlands High School basketball team to a new level, and a bit of family history pushed them along the way.
The Wildcats made it to the third round of playoffs this year, the furthest the team has gone in the postseason since 2004. McDavid and Griffin were standout players on the team, and they were a big part of the program’s recent development.
“They both are definitely leaders,” says head coach Joe Duffield. “They’re ‘A’ students, good teammates, and the fun is in the family legacy for both of them.”
When Duffield became coach five years ago, the program wasn’t in great shape. He remembers a conversation with McDavid’s father, Chad, as McDavid was entering high school. Other schools were vying for McDavid, but his father decided to keep him at Lake Highlands.
“Part of having a successful basketball program is having buy-in from the parents,” Duffield says. “[Chad McDavid and Jeremy Griffin Sr.] both believed in what we were doing to turn it around. We went from a team that wasn’t winning many games to three playoff seasons.”
McDavid says it was exciting to be part of that rebuild.
“When I came in as a freshman, I didn’t really know what to expect,” McDavid says. “I feel like even since then, the practices have gotten more intense. There’s more of a focus on defense. That’s what’s been helping us win.”
Duffield took time to invest in his players individually, and that helped build a positive relationship between players and coaching staff.
McDavid remembers seeing Duffield at his games in middle school watching the upcoming players.
“I’ve never really known a high school coach to do that and care that much about the younger guys,” McDavid says.
Duffield ’s leadership certainly helped turn the players to rely on.
“(McDavid) is a big guard, really athletic. He’s a very good defender and rebounder, and he led us in scoring, averaging 23 points a game,” Duffield says. “[McDavid] really each year became a more well-rounded player. By his senior year, he became the go-to guy, able to do it all.”
“(Griffin), he’s the point guard, and he’s lightning quick,” Duffield says. “He’s the fastest kid I’ve ever coached. As point guard, you drive the ship, the energy of the team. He grew up a lot in the past two years as a leader being steady and staying under control.”
McDavid and Griffin have played basketball since they were little, and they were constantly surrounded by role models.
Griffin’s father, Jeremy Griffin Sr., was a football team running back when he attended Lake Highlands, and he was on the basketball team when they won the district championship in 1989. Chad McDavid was a football and track athlete for Lake Highlands, and McDavid’s uncle played on the football state championship team in 1981.
“It’s kind of special knowing that [my dad] went [to LHHS] and played,” Griffin says. “He has always supported me and helped me become better.”
The family legacy also lit a competitive fire in McDavid.
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‘Wow, my dad really walked these same halls,'” McDavid says. “It definitely made me want to do better than him.”
McDavid and Griffin worked hard over the years, and that translated to individual successes by senior year. Both received All-District nods as juniors, and this year, Griffin was selected to the District 7-6A First Team All-District, and McDavid was the 7-6A Offensive Player of the Year.
McDavid was also voted to the 6A All-Region Teams and received Academic All-State recognition.
Another important aspect of being local products was the community support behind McDavid and Griffin. Even with the pandemic limiting crowd sizes, the two had a dedicated following.
“When we were playing in Prosper, I didn’t expect many people to come out, but a lot of people came out,” McDavid says. “It was like, ‘Wow, they really support us.’”
McDavid and Griffin plan to keep playing basketball in college. Griffin has offers from Southwestern College and Ottawa University — both in Kansas — and McDavid is juggling offers from several schools, including Bucknell University, West Point (Army) and Navy.
Since McDavid and Griffin come from families of Lake Highlands athletes, they’re seen as trenched members of the community, and they receive a lot of support because of it.
“Lake Highlands is a family-oriented community. There’s great support and pride in what Lake Highlands is about, pride in the diversity as a school and community. People who went to school in Lake Highlands move back because they want their kids to be a part of that,” Duffield says.
“Just having that history, that’s what high school sports is all about: representing your school, community and family.”