'No Other Gym Like This': Home-Court Quirks Give Lake View High the Edge
The school's varsity basketball court, built in 1916 and looking every bit its age, is 6 feet narrower than a standard 84-by-50 high school facility.
An indoor track hangs over the court's corners, making 3-pointers from that area almost impossible to shoot.
A dungeonlike spiral staircase weaves its way to the team's locker room.
The lighting is dim at best.
And, perhaps most amazingly, the court's southwest corner is nonexistent. In its place is a mat-covered brick wall that juts into the playing surface.
"There's no other gym like this," said North Grand High School head coach Anthony Ramos, whose team lost 57-38 at Lake View on Thursday night. "You can clearly see that this gym was built when basketball wasn’t a mainstream sport."
Lake View 's 18th-year head coach Mike Menczynski said the gym has its pluses and minuses.
Menczynski said his team actively tries to trap opponents into the corners, including what Ramos called the "missing" one in the southwest section.
While his club has lost only twice at home in the last four years, it hasn't won a playoff game, which can't be held at Lake View — Illinois' oldest public high school — due to the weird dimensions.
"Most of the teams we play can't believe this is our gym," Menczynski said.
That thought was echoed by Lake View senior forwards Eric Liang and Greg Jenkins. The first time Jenkins, a Lakeview resident, entered the gym as a freshman, he asked a security guard if it was the school's actual court.
Liang, of Bridgeport, said he enjoys being able to limit the opposition's offensive sets and shooting capabilities.
"We click better as a team here," said Liang, who added it takes about a quarter for opponents to figure out the court's dimensions.
Jenkins said he loves having fans standing on bleachers about a foot away from the court, their voices reverberating off the old-school gym's brick, steel and cement interior.
The playing conditions used to be worse. Until a few years ago, Menczynski said a pullup bar hanging from the track prevented inbounds passes from underneath the west basket. A small office on the court's eastern side was removed in the last few years as well, giving that area some more breathing room.
Ramos said it's a shame Lake View has to play in such a place, and Menczynski said there are no plans for a new facility.
That's not the best news for official Dernon Reed, who worked Thursday's game.
During the first half, he ran head-on into the "missing corner."
"I run into the wall every time I come here," he said. "That's why I don't like coming here."