Connor Niego is set to add to the Niego legacy at Lewis.
Niego, the former prep star at Lyons, is headed to the Division II school in Romeoville at the semester as a transfer following three years at Holy Cross.
Last season he played 30 minutes a game and averaged 8.8 points and 5.1 rebounds.
Lewis coach Scott Trost landing a 6-8 forward from the Division I ranks is a huge plus and big story for the program. But the bigger storyline is another Niego playing at Lewis.
The Niego family became a national story in the mid-1980s when four Niego brothers –– Connor’s dad, Joe, and uncles Charlie, Tom and Mark–– all started together at Lewis. All four brothers scored 1,000-plus points in their Lewis career.
The Niego brothers were featured in a Sports Illustrated story in 1986. USA Today and NBC National News both highlighted the brothers who once scored every point in a Lewis game and helped lead the program to a 14-0 start in 1985-86 en route to a 25-5 season.
Over the course of making a decision, Connor Niego said the “Lewis storyline” surfaced more and more in discussions. He heard the stories of “how awesome those days were at Lewis” and how it was an experience his dad and uncles will never forget.
“There were a lot of things that attracted me to Lewis,” said Connor Niego, whose mother also played at Lewis. “The legacy of the family at Lewis was certainly one of them. It’s a bit of a family tradition.”
Connor Niego doesn’t dismiss the fact the current pandemic played a role in his decision. After talking with multiple Division I programs, Niego felt a pull toward coming back home after spending three years at Holy Cross in Massachusetts.
“Obviously these are some crazy times right now with the pandemic,” said Niego. “So it’s going to be nice to be close to home, to be close to my mom and dad, brothers and my large extended family. That’s a real plus.”
He also has a strong connection to the Lewis coaching staff, including assistant coach Nick Rocco. Connor Niego played for Rocco when he played for Chicago Lockdown, a club basketball circuit program his dad, Joe, began in 2011.
“I’ve known coach Trost for awhile and Roc coached me when I played with Lockdown, so that’s like another family-like connection,” said Niego.
Connor Niego also knows the high level of a basketball that’s played in Division II. He watched his brother, Harrison Niego, play Division II basketball at Hillsdale in Michigan. He’s also attended his share of Lewis games in the past.
“I’m very familiar with Division II basketball and the talent level that’s played there,” said Niego. “It’s a very good conference (Great Lakes Valley Conference) with high-level basketball. I know how good it is, and I know the talent at Lewis and the success they’ve had.”
Winning is critical for Niego going forward, especially after experiencing a 3-29 season a year ago at Holy Cross. He knows Lewis has won its share of games, reaching the Division II NCAA Tournament two years ago when the Flyers won 25 games.
“During this process I really emphasized that I want to win,” said Niego, who will have two years of eligibility. “Losing is never fun at any level. I want to win. Winning three games in a season is tough, it’s tough on everyone. My expectation is to win games. I’m fired up, ready to go and really excited about my future at Lewis.”