BOYS BASKETBALL: WL Central surprising again, Vikings quite hard to handle
COMMERCE TWP – Some people just don’t learn.
Last winter, the experts looked past the Walled Lake Central boys basketball team in their preseason previews.
The result: first-year head coach Chuck Spolsky took the Vikings to an 18-5 overall record and a league championship out of the KLAA Northern Division
This season, it’s been more of the same.
The pundits didn’t pick Central to be much of a factor and once again the Vikings are jazzing it up on the hardwood, hooping their hearts out and turning heads.
Central came plowing out of the gate to a 6-0 start.
On the heels of Monday’s thriller of a 52-50 clipping of crosstown nemesis Walled Lake Western, where Spolsky’s club rallied from a double-digit deficit at halftime to claim a crucial league win, the Vikings are 7-2.
Spolsky, a Novi Detroit Catholic Central alum and former college football player, has proven an inspiring presence on the sidelines and a master tactician in the huddle.
“The kids compete hard, that can go a long way sometimes,” he said. “We’ve snuck up on some people these last two years and that’s to their credit. You try to put your players in the best positions to succeed and try to instil confidence in them. That’s how we’ve been playing, with a lot of confidence.”
Senior co-captains Justin Nafso and Phil Nelson have been at the forefront of Central’s on-court assault, sparking the squad with gutty leadership and clutch playmaking.
“Those guys really set the tone for the rest of the team,” said Spolsky of his pesky pair of high-grade performers.
Nafso is a fireplug point guard, able to skewer the opposition with savvy moves to the rack, quick-release jumpers and 3s and pinpoint passes that find his teammates for easy buckets. He is an instinctive tempo-setter at the controls of the Vikings’ offense, equally comfortable playing a fast-paced transition game or operating in a half-court style.
"My mentality is pass-first, but I’m not afraid to take it myself either," Nafso said. "We communicate well out there together and we have a lot of trust in each other. That has translated into victories."
Nelson is a ferocious swingman-type, bulldog-tough on his drives to the rim and crashing the glass and an efficient shooter.
"Justin and I are big-time players and big-time players are there to make big plays," Nelson said. "We don’t shy away from that responsibility."
Against Western Monday, they were relentless, as Nafso went off for 18 points, seven assists and the game-winning 15-footer from the foul-line and Nelson recorded 16 points and 8 boards, including a personal 9-0 run to open the second half, igniting the Central comeback.
The future in the program is bright as well, with the emergence of sophomore guard Walter Kelser (nephew of Michigan State great and retired NBA’er Greg), who plays with a great deal of poise for his young age and has a silky-smooth stroke from the perimeter.
Besides Nelson, Nafso and Kelser, Nate Collins and Trevor Williams are a tandem of gritty and athletic guards that have endless motors and can both pop the 3-ball and Adetokunbo Ogundeji has been a pleasant surprise in the paint.
Spolsky is pleased with the hand he’s been dealt in Year No. 2 of his tenure.
"I like this group, they play with a lot of heart and desire and that’s fun to coach," he said.