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Lyons’ Niego carries on family tradition

11/27/2012, 7:42pm CST
By George M. Wilcox

Like many of his family members before him, Lyons guard Harrison Niego has chosen to narrow his focus to just basketball.

La Grange, IL - Saturday, November 24, 2012: Lyons Township's Harrison Niego (5) vs Fenwick's Michael Smith (12) during the LT Thanksgiving Tournament. | Steve Johnston~for Sun-Times Media

Harrison Niego comes from a basketball family.

A really big basketball family.

One of his favorite memories about growing up in Western Springs was playing shortstop for the Gravel travel baseball program, competing in local and regional tournaments.

So his decision to concentrate on basketball was difficult, considering Lyons’ recent history in baseball: 2011 IHSA state championship, 2012 state runner-up and summer league title in July.

Like many other members of his family, basketball became Niego’s favorite sport. He’s a Niego and the Niegos play basketball.

“I fell in love with the game (of basketball),” said Niego, Lyons’ new starting point guard. “That’s what you have to do to be successful. I want to go to college to play basketball.”

His father and uncles became national sensations in 1985 when the four Niego brothers started for Lewis University’s Division II men’s basketball team. They were regarded as the first set of four brothers to start for an NCAA team. The brothers were featured in articles in the New York Times, USA Today, Sports Illustrated, Star Magazine and in a report by Connie Chung on the NBC News.

Harrison’s father, Joe, was the only brother to be drafted by the NBA and played briefly for the Houston Rockets. While at De La Salle, he led the Meteors to a No. 2 ranking in the state in 1982. His teammates at Lewis included Niego twins Charlie and Tom and younger brother Mark.

Seven of Ron and Patricia Niego’s eight children went on to play college basketball.

Harrison grew familiar with his family’s basketball legacy through tattered news clippings and Google searches. His dad started the Bulldogs travel basketball team when Harrison was in fourth grade.

“The program has really progressed. It’s like a franchise with players going to LT (area) schools,” Harrison said.

Harrison’s four brothers — Connor (eighth grade), Nolan (sixth), Grant (fifth) and Jackson (second) — also play basketball.

The 6-foot-1 sophomore began his varsity career with a team-high 18 points in the opener, a 51-36 victory over Argo Nov. 21 in the Lyons Thanksgiving tournament. He contributed seven points in a 55-43 loss to Fenwick Saturday.

Lyons coach Tom Sloan has known Harrison since Lyons youth summer camps. Over last summer, it was apparent the sophomore was the best option at the point for Lyons.

“He’s good dribbling against pressure and he’s a good defender,” Sloan said. “He has a high basketball IQ.”

Clearly, Harrison made the smart choice to concentrate on basketball.

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