Former Division I basketball player set to return to alma mater in coaching role

Anthony Bonner, whose “best, most fun and most memorable days playing ball at LHS,” is zealously motivated about his new role coaching basketball next year.


Joseph Anderson

Lawrence High alum Anthony Bonner brings the ball up the court during his senior season at home against Free State.

By Jack Ritter, Editor-in-Training

Former Chesty Lion Anthony Bonner is joining the LHS Basketball coaching staff, and fans should be excited.

Bonner, a state champion runner-up, All-State honoree and Colorado State University graduate, will bring a lot of things to the LHS basketball team next year. But more specifically, his experience, energy and care he hopes to express to players.

“I want to make bonds with these kids,” he said in an interview with The Budget. “I want these kids to understand ‘I can go to coach AB off the court, I can go to him on the court’ and just making sure they know ‘coach AB is a big brother to me, he cares about me and loves me.’ You can really get the most out of a player when they know that.”

Head coach Mike Lewis, who announced the hire via Twitter on May 18, knows his former player is already fired up.

Having a young guy on the staff brings that extra energy and juice that we love,” he told The Budget. “We know that Anthony is a well-rounded adult with a passion for kids. He wants to do what’s right for young people and put them in a position to be successful.”

Bonner added that being a part of a successful state runner-up team and collegiate program has equipped him with the experience to understand his players better.

“I know where they’ve been,” he said. “I can tell them what it’s like to be on the road, in a loud atmosphere and down four with no time left. Being in their shoes will be really helpful for them.”

One player Bonner hopes to use this experience on is sophomore Zaxton King, who was named Sunflower League Sophomore of the Year and led LHS in scoring this past season. According to Bonner’s Twitter account, the pair have already worked out with each other.

I can’t say enough good things about Zaxton King,” he said. “Not only to be around him in a training aspect but in a practice and coaching aspect too. He’s got a bright future, and he deserves a lot based on the work he puts in.”

King is eager to see the impact Bonner can make on the program.

“We’re building a relationship early, which is good,” King said. “With him being a D1 player, knowing he’s been in my shoes and him being a great player at Lawrence High… it’s all exciting.”

Lewis said that Bonner acting as a role model for new team members is especially valuable.

“It’s a great example for our guys to look at and understand how difficult it is to play D1 ball,” he said. “What it takes from a skill standpoint, what it takes athletically, and what it takes academically to qualify and reach that. Anthony and Zeke [Mayo] both have those characteristics. They are great example for our guys to have.”

Most of all, Bonner is ready to contribute to the team’s culture, which Lewis said he was instrumental in establishing.

Our program is in a position where it feels like our guys understand our culture and know what the expectations are,” Lewis said. “Anthony as a player helped to build that culture with that whole senior class, so it has a direct connection with him. He’s knows, he’s been there, and he had a big part in building what we have now.”

That senior class, headlined by Bonner, brought the team to the state title game and started the historic seven-year state tournament-berth streak. Bonner said he owes it to his teammates and their group effort, but also to three essential factors of Lawrence High basketball.

“It all starts with the atmosphere,” he said. “Coming into high school, I was excited about ‘The Jungle’s’ vintage, caved-in feel and how loud it could get. Then we get that community support because of all the history behind us. And, obviously, just winning. We’ve always dominated the City Showdown and Free State, so just owning the city. It’s not all about competitive advantage, but you take a lot of pride in winning something like that.”

Bonner couldn’t be more glad to be back, basking in the atmosphere, support and winning culture.

I’ve always wanted to come back and coach and help at my alma mater because of my success there and how successful I know that program can be,” he said. “This past year I reached out to him [Lewis], but everything was pretty filled up. So I went to Southwest and I volunteered to coach the 7th graders. I realized I really like doing this thing, I almost like teaching ball more than playing.”

The process of being hired to coach couldn’t be more simple for Bonner.

“He hit me up about two weeks ago and it was a no-brainer, no questions asked.”