Nina Mandell
Wednesday March 11th, 2009

If the too-good-to-be-true family in Leave It To Beaver ever took a stab at basketball, they might look a lot like the Lischs, the first family of Saint Louis University basketball. Kevin, a senior, leads the Billikens men's team in scoring, while sister Theresa, a junior, is the leading scorer for the women's team.

"They're the kids from Lake Woebegone," said St. Louis men's coach Rick Majerus. "All the men are strong, all the women are good looking and all the kids are above average."

Two of the four Lisch kids are building a foundation for a basketball program that's trying to become the next Gonzaga.

The second-oldest of the Lisch kids, Kevin, a 6-foot-2 guard, averages 14.2 points and has a knack for coming through in the clutch. This season he's hit game-sealing free throws against Saint Joseph's and a three against Richmond to send the game into overtime, where St. Louis won. He's also broken into the program's list of top 10 career scorers, been named to third team all-conference and like his sister, been named a CoSIDA Academic All-American.

"On the court he's got great tenacity," Majerus said. "Kevin is a subset of one in the universe. There aren't many people like that in life: leading scorer, best defender, best student, captain ... and the hardest worker on the team."

Similar things have been said about Theresa, a 5-9 junior guard on the women's team who set the program's single-season scoring record in February. A former Miss Illinois basketball player, she had eliminated Saint Louis from her list of schools until coach Shimmy Gray-Miller came calling during her senior year of high school and invited her to visit the school.

"The whole family showed up -- we didn't even have furniture in the office yet," the fourth-year coach said. "The older sister came back from college, the mom, the dad, Kevin was around. They were sitting on desks and took up the whole office and we sat around for three hours just talking basketball," Gray-Miller recalled. "That first day I realized I wasn't recruiting her, I was recruiting the entire family."

With four children who grew up to play in Division I (the oldest, Stephanie played at Indiana State; Kevin; Theresa; and the youngest, Danny, a redshirt freshman at St. Louis), the earliest competition for the Lischs came in the backyard of their Belleville, Ill. home. "It's amazing how competitive it gets when you're playing for who does the dishes," said their mom, Cathy.

That toughness carried over for Theresa and Kevin while at Saint Louis. Kevin, who was hospitalized for staph infections during his senior year in high school, played games in his sophomore season despite a laceration between two fingers in his hand among other many in-game injuries (a hit this season from a Boston College player left him with blood streaming down his forehead). Theresa has broken her nose twice, once during her freshman year and once during her sophomore year, and broke her hand during her junior year -- only to walk into the training room to see her brother, who in turn called their mom.

"[After Kevin's hospitalizations], a broken hand isn't really a big deal," Cathy said. "It's kind of like, 'oh you're out for a few weeks, oh well.'"

Since Theresa came to came to St. Louis, the team has improved from the bottom of the Atlantic 10 to the middle of the pack, finishing 2008-09 with a 13-17 record. This season she led the conference in scoring with 19.5 points a game and was a first-team all-conference selection .

Kevin has had a similar effect: The year he committed to St. Louis, the Billikens went 9-21; last season, they had 16 wins, and this season they are 17-13 and .500 in the Atlantic 10. Kevin led the team in assists, steals and points.

The duo has also made a huge impact on recruiting.

"When [I] first got to St. Louis there were a lot of kids that were there because they didn't have any other options: They were there because no other Division I school recruited them or because St Louis was so good academically they didn't want to pass it up," remembers Gray-Miller. "We wanted to attract students who are great students and great basketball players and she's brought in players who want to come to school just to play with her," Gray-Miller said. "I got some freshmen who I know wouldn't be here if it weren't for her."

As competitive as they are on the court, the siblings are extremely close off of it. It was Kevin who introduced Theresa to her fiancé, Trent Mecham, a hoops player at Illinois whom Kevin met in Paris while playing for a Christian ministry team. Kevin thought he'd be great for his little sister and after telling Trent to come down to visit, he finally obliged. "He said 'To be clear, I'm coming to visit you.'" Kevin remembers.

Less than a year later, Theresa and Trent were engaged -- but not before Trent cleared it with Kevin first. "He called asked me if it was OK, which I thought was really nice," Kevin said. With Theresa engaged and Mecham headed overseas to play next year, there's been speculation she'll leave Saint Louis this season before her eligibility is exhausted, something she insists she hasn't decided.

Majerus says Kevin, who graduated earlier this year with a degree in marketing and is now working on his MBA, has an NBA future, but he's not sure if someone will take a chance on him. "[Jerry] Sloan or [Gregg] Popovich and Don Nelson say they would love him and see themselves in him," Majerus said. "[He's] got a bastard size to him for the NBA, he's not a [super speedy], but he's one of the winners."

And as St. Louis cruises to the second round of the A-10 tournament after a 62-60 overtime win over La Salle on Wednesday, the Billikens are hoping Kevin can keep them winners just a little longer.

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