DECATUR — For years, the St. Teresa basketball team has had a featured star.
There was Patrick Althoff, Christian Williams and Isaiah Bond, each who could take the game over on a whim and power the Bulldogs at any turn by careening to the rim.
Althoff is gone — he's getting shoutouts from Bill Walton on ESPN. Williams is back on the court after transferring to Indiana State, and Bond is a freshman at Monmouth College.
St. Teresa (6-8) has a handful of guys who can drive to the hole and take a game over, but is searching for someone to be the marquee attraction in coach Tom Noonan's offense.
As it turns out, junior Michael Less has been in the backseat of the car driven by Bond on the basketball court and running back Jacardia Wright on the football field — in a run-heavy offense where Less was a receiver. He's happily played whatever role that's been asked of him.
“My goal is always just to win. Whatever happens, I just want to win," Less said.
He's averaging 4 points, 3.5 rebounds, an assist and a steal for the Bulldogs this year. St. Teresa has a slew of young players who are accustomed to success and are getting acclimated to the varsity level. Less got a heavy does of varsity last season, often coming up with a big rebound or getting to the rim in big moments.
“When he gets a matchup that he likes, he’s aggressive to the rim and then he quietly comes down with six rebounds, five rebounds," Noonan said.
“He has really good length and he has a nose to the ball, but really if he can put the ball on the floor and get to the rim, he’s pretty darn good."
During the football playoffs, Less suffered a right knee injury that cost him a few games early in the basketball season and slowed him from getting to full speed. But when he's there, and the coaching staff knows that moment is coming sooner than later, Noonan knows exactly how good his under-the-radar junior can be. He's had his best games recently, including 11 points in a 59-57 win against Meridian on Friday.
“When he was healthy this summer, he was the best player on the court for a lot of his summer games," Noonan said. "Right now, it’s getting that confidence in his body to be that guy again."
Less has never been troubled to be a team-first player, taking a backseat when it's needed. That element of sports is in his DNA.
His father, John Less, was a linebacker at Iowa State. His oldest sister, Emily, played volleyball at Southern Illinois University; his other sister, Marie, played volleyball at Southeast Missouri State; and his brother, David, was a standout football player at St. Teresa who is now enrolled in law school at Michigan State.
Despite a seven-year age difference, Michael grew up battling David in driveway basketball games.
“It was pretty competitive," Michael said. "When I was younger, I didn’t really ever win with older siblings. Now I’m starting to win a little bit.
“Just practicing against David, he’s like seven years older than me, it’s real tough playing against him. Then playing against people my age was easy."