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L.J. McIntosh, of Marist, drives to the hoop against Brother Rice. l Gary Middendorf~For Sun-Times Media
L.J. McIntosh was a freshman basketball player at Marist three years ago when Nick Valla established an individual scoring record for the RedHawks.
Valla knew with the young sharpshooter’s career ahead of him, the record was probably not going to be his for too long.
“Nick told me one day I’d probably have a chance to break it,” McIntosh said.
The senior Marist guard, who averages 22.4 points a game for the 12-4 RedHawks, did just that last Friday night in the team’s 73-61 victory over visiting St. Patrick on a pair of free throws late in the first half.
He also averages five rebounds, four steals and three assists a game.
“I try to play with passion every game, work hard and help my team get the victory,” said McIntosh, who scored 18 points in that game.
“The big thing was we came into the game 0-2 in [East Suburban Catholic] conference and it was an important game against a ranked team,” he said.
For his accomplishments, McIntosh is the Chicago Sun-Times Athlete of the Week.
The University of Texas-Pan American-recruit caught the eye of Marist coach Gene Nolan more than a decade ago.
“He’s been coming to our summer camp since he was in third grade,” Nolan said. “He’s obviously a very good player, but he’s a better kid. He’s extremely coachable, and everything he’s done has come within a team setting and been about winning games.”
McIntosh and Marist emerged last year when he helped the RedHawks equal the school record with 26 victories and knock out highly-ranked Public League powers Curie and Bogan before losing to three-time defending state champion Simeon in the Class 4A sectional final.
The 6-2 McIntosh is rangy, has good quickness and has developed into a clean and pure shooter.
“I’ve spent a lot of time with coach Nolan working and developing my shot,” he said.
McIntosh said the Princeton offense Marist runs and its emphasis on cutting, movement and screening has helped his game flourish.
“I try to play with confidence,” he said. “Also, I am playing with great teammates. I’m not scoring the ball by myself.”
The team has been marked by a considerable absence, 6-5 junior Nic Weishar, a two-year starter who is out for the season recovering from an injury he sustained playing football. The RedHawks experienced early struggles playing without him.
With Lexus Williams and Zak Niemiera, McIntosh is the centerpiece of the RedHawks’ attack.
“I think we’re adjusting better with every game to his absence,” McIntosh said. “Nic was always there, the one to get a rebound and cover up for other guys. Now, we realize it’s every guy’s responsibility.”
As he approaches the home stretch at Marist, the scoring record has prompted reflections on his prep career.
“The big thing I think about is how we’ve progressed over the four years. My freshman year, we didn’t win a ton of games, we lost some tough, close games, but we still loved each other as a team.
“Now we’re trying to do the same this year we did last year and make a great run. The biggest thing I’ll remember is how we progressed over the four years,” McIntosh said.