By Mark Gregory
While most residents of Wood
ridge attend Downers Grove High School, you won’t find the name PJ Pipes in any of the Mustangs’ record books.
The record book you will find his name in Lemont’s.
Pipes lives in the small area of Woodridge that attends Lemont High School and he has rewritten the Indians’ record book, placing his name at the top of the all-time scorers list with 1,261 career points.
“It puts a smile on my face that I am the one in the history books,” he said. “That I can be the all-time leading scorer in school history and that when people talk about the best scorers to come through the school, they will talk about my name.”
Pipes said he has enjoyed his time at Lemont.
“It was a great journey,” he said. “The coaches always pushed me and never let me be satisfied with where I was at. They always pushed me to reach my highest potential. All of my teammates, too, we all pushed each other and when one was down, we always picked each other up.”
Pipes made his varsity debut as a freshman and earned a starting spot as a sophomore.
“When they brought me up, it helped my speed,” Pipes said. “The first couple practices and the first games, I was dog tired because varsity was a lot faster. I realized that I had to get a lot faster and it helped my ball handling knowing I had to be able to make a move in traffic.
“A lot of my passes early on were intercepted or turned over because I wasn’t seeing it, but once I got used to the pace everything started falling into place.”
In his final game, a 63-54 loss to Bolingbrook, in the Sandburg Regional final, Pipes suffered an ankle injury that forced him out of the game. That injury, however, was not going to end his career.
“I was not going to sit out,” Pipes said. “I knew if I could walk, I was going to get in there and try and make an impact.”
That is the same attitude he is hoping the young players have in their careers.
“I tried not to let any adversity get me down. I tried to just keep my head up and keep pushing that no matter what,” he said. “That is something young kids have to realize is that you will have bumps and bruises, but you have to keep pushing on and push through it and give your 110 percent effort every time no matter what. If you can play through it, there is no excuse.”
Pipes’ next stop will be the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, where he will be only the third Lemont player to ever play Division-I basketball following 1950 graduate Don Laketa, who played at University of Wichita (now Wichita State) and 1975 graduate Tom Leffler, who played at Murray State.
Pipes will join Joliet West small forward Trevian Bell as a one-two punch from Illinois on the Green-Bay roster.
“I am looking forward to it. We have a good incoming freshman class and I think we can make a push next year,” Pipes said. “I think I can compete as a freshman and even earn some minutes. Whoever is in front of me, I will push them and I hope they will push me to help me get better as a freshman.
“It humbles you. It makes you realize that you can’t just walk in the gym and be the best player. You have to work for your minutes, work for your time and work for your shots.”