Monthly Archives: February 2018

COLE NAU – THE LANCERS’ VERSION OF THE SWISS ARMY KNIFE

COLE NAU - THE LANCERS'
VERSION OF THE SWISS ARMY KNIFE

Brookfield Central basketball coach Dan Wandrey has had many talented players over the years on his girls and boys teams.  But for the past three seasons, he has been pleased with the likes of Cole Nau, the Lancers version of a Swiss army knife.

For those not familiar with a Swiss army knife, it is one of the handiness tools made. It has two blades, big and small, and some of the many additions include nail filers, fish scaler,  scissors, pliers, Phillips screwdriver, tweezers, toothpick and can opener to name just a few.

Wandrey can call on Nau to do several duties on the basketball court, just as easily as people can use a Swiss army knife for various functions.

Just listen to how the veteran coach responded when asked about Nau's strengths.

"His biggest strength is he doesn't have one thing that's better than anything else," Wandrey said. "His court awareness, his basketball IQ and acumen are outstanding. He plays every position on the floor for us. He handles the ball, he posts up. he gets the No. 1 defensive assignment. His versatility is irreplaceable. He really makes the players around him better."

But what really makes Nau valuable is his ability to play defense.

"He can guard 6-5, 6-6 guys," Wandrey said. "Obviously we're a little vertically challenged. With Cole's length and athleticism he can play guys who are bigger. And with his quickness and athleticism and anticipation he can guard smaller guys too. It's great."

When asked if he liked guarding the other team's top player, Nau had an interesting response.

"I like it because I like controlling one of the best guys in the game," he said. "If someone else is guarding the best guy, it kind of makes me feel weird. I like having an impact, I like playing the game both ways."

Photo by Al Herzberg, SportsPhotoLLC --- Junior guard Cole Nau does it all for the Lancers and is one of the major reasons for winning another Greater Metro Conference Championship.

Cole is listed as a 6-foot, 3 inch guard, but he can pretty much play any position.  And his regular season numbers are just as impressive.

He finished second in scoring (13.3 points per game), 3-point shots made (28), rebounding (5.1 per game), assists (4.2 per game), steals (27) and blocked shots (14). He shoots .467 percent from the field, including .522 from the free-throw line.

But where Cole really stepped up was a 4-game stretch - including 3 Greater Metro Conference games - when four Central players had to sit out because of an off-the-court situation.

Nau was the key to keeping the Lancers in the conference race by leading them to a 3-0 mark against Menomonee Falls, Germantown and first-place Brookfield East.

In a 91-60 win over Falls, he scored 21 points, handed out 10 assists, grabbed 7 rebounds, blocked 5 shots and had 3 steals.

In a 79-53 win over Germantown he scored 16 points, had 10 assists, 3 rebounds, 2 steals and a blocked shot.

He was in there with his dad and a couple other coaches playing on a (third-grade) AAU team. He looked like a 15-year old basketball player in a 7 year old’s body. That’s when I knew he was something special.”

--- Coach Dan Wandrey on when he first saw Cole Nau play

But then in a 53-44 win over then undefeated Brookfield East, he scored 21 points, grabbed 8 rebounds, had 8 assists, a steal and a blocked shot.

He scored 58 points (19.3 average), handed out 28 assists (9.3), grabbed 18 rebounds (6.0) and had 7 blocked shots and 6 steals. He also hit 22 of 42 shots (.524 percentage) from the field and ran the Lancers offense.

He even scored 17 points, grabbed 6 rebounds and had 3 assists in the only loss in that stretch, coming against state-ranked Sun Prairie in the Luke Homan Memorial Tournament.

Wandrey was asked if he stepped up his game during this stretch when the team was short-handed.

Photo by Al Herzberg, SportsPhotoLLC  --- Brookfield Central junior Cole Nau tries to stay out of the spotlight . But this season the Lancers captain helped led the team when they were short-handed, winning 3 key games which enabled them to win another Greater Metro Conference title.

"That doesn't even do it justice," the emotional coach said. "He was like out of this worldly. The first game he had almost a quadruple double. 21 points, 10 assists, 7 rebounds, 5 blocks. The game was like his chess game.

"He did things. Cole brought those guys in gym (the players who started instead) early and went over things so they knew what to do."

Cole also talked about having to step up his game.

"I felt a little pressure, but when I got on the court - I play point guard with my Ray Allen select team and I really enjoy it," he said. "Jack (Brady) really stepped up. He's like Sam (Rohde) a lot, so I got him the ball."

Brady a sharp-shooting senior also did a good job in that first game with 6 treys for 24 points. He also had 7 treys against Germantown for 25 points and continued to start the rest of the way, leading the team with 35 3-point shots.

Cole talked about his role on the team.

"I like to be a facilitator," he said. "I have to rebound and play defense too. A lot of things. I think my strength is seeing the court and seeing the court well. Looking for other teammates to score and knowing to score when you have to."

The scary part if both Cole and Wandrey know he can get better.

"Attacking the middle more, dribbling by guys, making more moves, having more counter shots stuff like that," Nau said when asked what he would like to get better at.

"I want him to play like the guy who played 5 games when those guys were not available," Wandrey said. "He just has such control of the game when he's involved in it. He's never going to be a guy who is a volume shooter. He's not going to take 15-16 shots a game - it's not in his makeup.

"When he needs to take control and be assertive, he's special. He's unbelievable. I would like to see him be that a little more. I want to say he blends in, but I don't mean it that way. He's OK with someone else taking the spotlight. but when he needs to, he's outstanding."

Cole is the Lancers captain and he talked about his role.

"I think leadership takes the team from good to great actually," he said. "Teams that have leaders can excel off the court and on the court. I like to be the kind of leader to talk to you when you need to be talked to, but I don't want people hating me. I want people to like me. But if I have to do something and make a tough decision, I'm not afraid to go that way."

Wandrey agrees with Cole's assessment.

"Cole is, I don't want to say soft-spoken - because that would indicate he's shy - but he's a man of few words," he said. "When he does speak, he's very poignant, it's very on point. He's that kid whose actions on the court, off the court - his work ethic, his commitment his dedication - makes him a great leader."

Cole has a first this year - playing with his brother, Ben, a 6-0 freshman point guard.

"In an official game, no we have never played together. I played with Gage (Malensek) in Jr. Lancers and we won state every year. I like it a lot (playing with his brother). It's really cool. Our parents really like it too."

Wandrey was asked about Cole away from the court and he was very complimentary.

"I was talking to a teacher here today, who had Cole in a class for the first time and she said 'Wow he's just an amazing kid. Everyone told me I would like him and he's even better.'

"He is almost like that kid you'd want your son to be like," Wandrey said. "You'd want your daughter to bring a guy like him home. He has high character. He's hard working. The kid next door. Respectful gracious."

Wandrey knew Cole was going to be good when he saw him play in third grade.

"I was coaching the girls and we couldn't use our gym so we played at a church," he said. "He was in there with his dad and a couple other coaches playing on an AAU team.

"He looked like a 15-year old basketball player in a 7 year old's body. That's when I knew he was something special."

HANGING WITH COLE NAU

  • FAVORITE FOOD:   Steak
  • FAVORITE MUSIC:   ​Rap
  • FAVORITE MOVIE:   'Stepbrothers,' Action movies.
  • FAVORITE TV SHOW:   'The Office, Game of Thrones'
  • FAVORITE CLASS:   Math
  • FAVORITE PLACE YOU VISITED:   Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
  • WHAT YOU DO TO RELAX:    Watch TV
  • FAVORITE SPORTS RIVALRY:   Brookfield East
  • MOST MEMORABLE MOMENT:   Going to the state tournament as a sophomore. 
  • WHAT DO YOU WANT TO DO IN THE FUTURE:   Attend college, play basketball and study Business.  

SOPHOMORE SAM McGRATH, SPARTANS’ QUIET LEADER

​SOPHOMORE SAM McGATH
SPARTANS' QUIET LEADER

If you looked up the definition of a 'quiet leader' you would probably find Brookfield East's Sam McGath's photo next to it.

McGath is a talented sophomore, who has played key positions for the Spartans in football (quarterback) and basketball (point guard).

"He's a quiet leader," second-year basketball coach Joe Rux said. "Sam is the kind of kid who will do what's asked of him. He is going to set the right example by how he conducts himself on and off the field. That's his strength right now.

“I think all of us would like to see him take the next step in that role and be a little vocal and be more assertive as a leader. But that comes also with maturity. When you're thinking about a 15-16 year old, it's hard to have every quality."

McGath, who started at quarterback last fall as a sophomore and led the Spartans to a 7-1 record in the Greater Metro Conference and a 10-2 overall mark, understands he is a sophomore and has a role.

"It's really important," McGath said about leadership. "As a sophomore on the football team I let the seniors do what they needed to do. They were the vocal leaders. I didn't really say a lot. On offense I just tried to lead when I needed to. I didn't go out of my way and say stuff I didn't need to say. I left that for the seniors to do."​

Photo by Al Herzberg, SportsPhotoLLC --- For the second straight season, sophomore Sam McGath started at point guard for coach Joe Rux and is one of the key reasons the Spartans are in a first-place tie with Brookfield Central in the Greater Metro Conference.

Football coach Ben Farley talked about McGath's leadership style.

"Quarterback is a natural leadership position and he leads by example," he said. "He is not a big rah-rah screamer. He doesn't know how to ever raise his voice. But a lot of people follow him. He is humble and doesn’t draw attention to himself."

McGath, who started on the JV as a freshman, was moved to wide receiver and played with the varsity during the Spartans run to the state title. Last ​fallhe started at quarterback and earned second-team all-conference honors.

Although he was a running quarterback - he rushed for 645 yards and 7 touchdowns - he also passed for 727 yards and 11 touchdowns showing his versatility.

"As a quarterback you have to make sure your team is playing well," he said. "If someone is getting down, you have to make sure you're picking them back up and being a leader.

"I enjoy running the ball and making the right reads, making the right decisions. But I need to improve my throwing accuracy and being able to get the ball there on time and in the right spot."

His maturity didn't surprise Farley.

"I was not surprised," he said. "He had a very good freshman year and started the last five games. He's a special kid, there's lot of poise about him, how he carries himself. You can't rattle him.

"We brought him up to play wide receiver and to mainly block. But in the level 4 vs Menomonee Falls he was involved in a trick play and gained 40 yards."

There’s not one thing where you look at Sam and say that’s where he’s really great. He’s pretty well-rounded as a basketball player. But certainly on the defensive end he’s really made a living. He’s able to deny people and work hard and get some rebounds.”

--- Coach Joe Rux on sophomore point guard Sam McGath

Farley also helped coach him in basketball his first year.

"He started and was one of our best players," he said. "You got to see that first hand, his athleticism, his physical talent, he's a smart kid."

Rux had the opportunity to see Sam play in the Jr. Spartans since he was hired in the spring before McGath's freshman year.

"Obviously he's a natural athlete physically and he is mature for his age as well," Rux said. "While we were watching him in the youth games, we saw how focused he was and that was the giveaway. He was more advanced at the freshman level."

As a result, he ended up starting for Rux as a freshman at the important point guard position.

"He's a competitor. You can pretty much ask him to play defense on anyone you want him to," Rux said. "He's going to take that as a challenge and you can trust that with him.

Photo by Al Herzberg, SportsPhotoLLC  --- Sophomore Sam McGath led the Spartans to a 10-2 record last fall and finished second-team All-Greater Metro Conference.

"There's not one thing where you look at Sam and say that's where he's really great. He's pretty well-rounded as a basketball player. But certainly on the defensive end he's really made a living. He's able to deny people and work hard and get some rebounds."

Sam talked about his role with the Spartans and what he felt his strengths were.

"Playing good defense, getting steals, doing the dirty work," he said. "Going to the hoop and driving. And getting assists and making sure everyone is playing well."

But being a sophomore, Sam still has things to work on.

"The biggest steps he can make is developing his shooting and work on going to the rim," Rux said. "It's hard when you are young going against kids who are more developed than you are. They're stronger and more athletic, so it makes it more difficult.

"He's going to get stronger, he's going to get quicker with his releases, so the 3-point shot won't be as much of a problem. When he gets to the basket he'll be able to finish it."

Currently, Sam is third on the team in scoring (8.6 points per game average) behind Patrick Cartier (20.8) and Thomas Francken (11.1), an improvement over his 5.6 points per game average his freshman year. He is tied for second in 3-point shots this year, the same as his freshman season.

"I'm working on being a more consistent shooter," McGath said. "Being able to knock down open shots."

McGath, who also is a sprinter on coach Mike Steiner's outstanding track teams, talked about what he likes most about basketball and football.

"Basketball is fast paced, not that many breaks," he said. "It's fun running up and down the court. It's a team game, everyone has to work together. You have to know everyone's strength and you have to know you own strengths. What you can do, can't do, what other people can and can't do.

"Football is fun because of the contact, being able to hit people. It's easily the biggest game in sports. It's fun being around the guys, in the weight room, the summer workouts."

The Spartans have been one of the top-ranked basketball teams in the state this year. McGath was asked if he expected such success.

"I knew we could be really good this year with have all the parts - especially Patrick in the middle - but I didn't know we'd be this good - but that we would have a better year than last year. Coach Rux is a good guy, a great coach, who pushes you to do your best and give 100 percent."

The veteran Rux had his own thoughts going into the season.

"In my 18 years of coaching, I don’t set any expectations on how low things can get or how high," he said. "I know it's a coaching cliché, but a good way to live. One day at a time.

"It happens when it's ready to happen and here it was a scenario where we had kids who work hard. We were able to find some success this year and concentrate on little things."

HANGING WITH SAM McGATH

  • FAVORITE FOOD:   ​Hamburgers
  • FAVORITE MUSIC:   ​Rap
  • FAVORITE MOVIE:   ​​'Sandlot,' Action movies.
  • FAVORITE TV SHOW:   'Walking Dead'
  • FAVORITE CLASS:   ​History
  • FAVORITE PLACE YOU VISITED:   ​Barcelona, Spain
  • WHAT YOU DO TO RELAX:    ​Lay on couch and watch TV
  • FAVORITE SPORTS RIVALRY:   ​Brookfield Central
  • MOST MEMORABLE MOMENT:   ​Winning state football championship as a freshman. 
  • WHAT DO YOU WANT TO DO IN THE FUTURE:   Attend college and study Business.  Would like to play football.  

TOSA EAST’S BROOKLYN BLACKBURN TWO-SPORT SENSATION

​TOSA EAST'S BROOKLYN BLACKBURN
​​TWO-SPORT SENSATION

When Brooklyn Blackburn enrolled at Wauwatosa East High School three years ago, the athletic department had no idea they would be getting two athletes for the price of one.

Then basketball coach Rob Hamill was familiar with Brooklyn's talents having watched her in the Tosa Basketball League growing up.

When Brian Hendricks applied for the open girls basketball job in the spring, he did research on Brooklyn and also found out she was a developing track star as well as being an outstanding basketball player.

"I looked up the roster and saw two all-conference players (Blackburn, Liz Bueckers) returning," Hendricks said. "I said that's a good start. I then started Googling her and saw she was a great hurdler. So I started following newspapers article on her and followed her in another sport. I saw her play basketball all summer. I said we're getting a pure athlete."

Blackburn finished fourth at state in the 100 hurdles as a sophomore and was part of the 4x400 relay (10th) and 4x200 relay team (20th).

Since she never participated in track before her freshman year, I asked her why she went out.

"I thought I was fast," she laughed. "I gotten hurt half way through track season - I only ran one meet outside - so I was coming into it saying 'Oh my God, I probably got way worst.' But at the conference meet I broke my PR (personal record), I broke the school record it was just like 'wow, for this to be my second year…'

When asked the difference between basketball and track, she laughed.

"Basketball is totally different, but speed helps," she said. "But basketball running and track running are totally different things."

Although Brooklyn is the straw that stirs the drink, her teammates are the most important thing to her according to Hendricks.

"Even as she progressed, it's become more team, team, team," the first-year coach said. "There were times when she was sick and played through it. When she was injured, she would sit on the bench and she was a version of me sitting on the bench. She's coaching the girls the entire time. Where a lot of players who are as good as she is get hurt, they possibly shut down and worry about their injury.

"The other night Brook got hurt, sat on the bench icing her ankle then you could see Brooklyn hobbling all the way from the end of the bench, just to make sure she gets to the huddle. It's becoming more and more apparent as the year goes on with her."

Photo by Tom "Sky" Skibosh --- Junior forward Brooklyn Blackburn tops the Wauwatosa East girls in scoring (15 points) and rebounds (8 .0) . She was honorable mention all-conference as a freshman and  first-team as a sophomore.

Mariana Ibanez-Baldor and Sydney Halstead are captains, but because of her attitude and talent Blackburn also does her part.

"I think it's really important - being able to share my knowledge with others and to be able to carry the team in different situations," she said about being a leader. "Not only on the floor, but off the floor, being able to keep the team together.

"If I see something I will say it. Or I will basically show someone. I'll say 'You do this instead of this. (When someone asks) it gives me self-confidence that means that I'm doing something right and someone wants to lead off of me. It makes me feel good."

Hendricks sees the progress Brooklyn is making in that role.

"I think she has grown more and more comfortable with leadership," he said. "Halfway through the first semester of the year, something clicked with her and it was a lot more leading by example.

"We have a freshman on the varsity and she should take her aside and say 'You make this cut and here's why.' and then as 2018 hit, she's become coach Brooklyn. A lot has to do with trust in your coach and what can I (Brooklyn) say now. She is really believing in 'that's what's going on, I can help you guys.' The team looks to her and they believe in what she says now."

In Brooklyn's first two years the Red Raiders were 17-8 overall, 7-7 in GMC, and 19-7 and 8-6. They are struggling this year going 6-8 overall and 3-6 going into the week.

They are playing without senior Liz Bueckers, the other returning all-conference player because of a knee injury (time of return in question) and they lost their third all-conference player - Johanna Taylor - to graduation.

It didn't take Hendricks long to see he had something special in Brooklyn.

"I saw her at the first open gym of summer. We had a team meeting, I introduced myself and then I watched her on the court. When Brooklyn got the ball, everyone kind of stopped and watched. I said this is something we could really and truly build around. Watching her play, it was great, instinctual, very natural for her. Where other girls were still learning it just comes natural for her."

Blackburn talked about her role and the team and what she enjoys the most.

"I feel I'm an all-around player, so I can help everyone in different scenarios or different situations," she said. "I have the most basketball experience. I play here and AAU (1on1) year-round. I feel like I have a good basketball IQ.

As a coach it’s exciting to see where this is going to end up. She has already matured as a player and a leader in two months here. So what is she going to do next year? It’s going to be fun to watch.”

Coach Brian Hendricks on Brooklyn Blackburn

"What do I enjoy the most? I run the floor really well. I like transitioning and physical work. I like to get to other people. I like to read the floor. I like to make things happen, I guess. (When I get an assist I feel great. I feel so accomplished. With assists it's a great feeling to have when you do it. I like doing something for someone else and I think that's great."

Hendricks couldn't wait to talk about her strengths.

"She's fantastic on offense. She'll get the basket when she dribbles, there aren't many people in conference who can stop her 1-on-1," he said. "Anytime she gets the ball in the paint she's going to get a good look and she's probably going to score. We're moving her up to the wing now. She's so big (5-feet, 11 inches) and so quick on the wing it's going to be hard for post players to guard her.

"She played post her whole life and we started her at wing and she's picking it up like nothing. It goes back to the quick learning and natural ability. I can tell her she's playing point guard this week and she will look at me and say 'Yeah, sure.' And then say 'OK, let's do it.' She'll figure it out. She'll give you a little goofy funny thing, but then at the end of the day every time you are talking to her she is actually listening."

Photo by Tom "Sky" Skibosh  --- First-year Red Raiders coach Brian Hendricks talked about how much Brooklyn Blackburn has matured since November.

Blackburn also knows what the strong part of her game is.

"I feel like I can score and I use my size to an advantage most of the time," she said, adding this about rebounding strategy. "You need to find a person, box her out and I have to actually jump in the air sometimes, especially against taller girls. I'm not the tallest one out there sometimes, so I try to establish a position to get a rebound.

"I have to transition from a post to a guard sometimes. So being able to set up plays and ball handling, things like that I need to work on."

Hendricks talked about another area Blackburn needs to work on.

"Defensively, right now she relies on pure athleticism because she is so much more athletic than most people. If she can get down the fundamentals of defense - plus the athleticism. Being in the right spot at the right time with your feet, not just your hands. Fundamental stuff. She is going to be a total scary player."

Hendricks then when back to Brooklyn and the way she cares about other people, especially family.

"She's a kind person first and foremost," he said. "You can tell by the way she cares for her younger sisters (Bria, Brilee). She loves them so much. One (Bria) of them plays on our club team. They're at every game. They went to the West Allis Hale-DSHA game and Brooklyn took her youngest sister with her. She's goofing around sitting with her. She shows so much compassion for those two and she does that with everybody.

"She's a kind, passionate person and she's a funny person. She knows when it's time to get serious. But if you're getting too serious she can throw a little joke in and loosen everybody up."

Hendricks once again referred to her progress since the season started.

"The maturity and growth I've seen from November through February has been huge and I think she's seeing that. As a coach it's exciting to see where this is going to end up. She has already matured as a player and a leader in two months here. So what is she going to do next year?  It's going to be fun to watch."

HANGING WITH BROOKLYN BLACKBURN

  • FAVORITE FOOD:   ​Buffalo Wings
  • FAVORITE MUSIC:   ​Rap
  • FAVORITE MOVIE:   ​​'Freedom Writers';  Romance movies.
  • FAVORITE TV SHOW:   'Chopped'
  • FAVORITE CLASS:   ​English
  • FAVORITE PLACE YOU VISITED:   ​Atlanta
  • WHAT YOU DO TO RELAX:    ​Sleep
  • FAVORITE SPORTS RIVALRY:   ​Wauwatosa West
  • MOST MEMORABLE MOMENT:   ​Scored 40 points against Washington last season. 
  • WHAT DO YOU WANT TO DO IN THE FUTURE:   Attend college and study pre-med (Physical Therapy).  

BREWERS NOT LEGITIMATE CONTENDERS YET

If the Milwaukee Brewers were to start the season with the current pitching rotation they would not be legitimate contenders. Could they earn a wild card spot? Possibly, but unless something happens to the Chicago Cubs they’re chances of winning the division or advancing in the playoffs are slim and none.

I have mixed emotions on this.

REBUILDING OR CONTENDING?

I have been in General Manager Dave Stearns‘ corner. I have agreed with most of his moves because I was smart enough to be familiar with the players in the deal or I trusted his and his staff’s judgment when I wasn’t familiar with the players.

Then when the Brewers made their blockbuster deal for Christian Yelich, who I love, and followed up with the free agent signing of Lorenzo Cain, my attitude changed.

One of the things I like about both players is they get on base and hit for average. I was sick and tired of the home run or nothing mentality and leaving men on base – constantly. It was disgusting and showed how little this lineup knew about hitting.

But with these moves, Stearns is going for it now.

Of course every team in baseball now knows they need to trade an outfielder for a pitcher, so that hurts their bargaining power. Stearns recently told baseball writer Tom Haudricourt that they might not make a move going into spring training and see what happens.

Based on the reports about what some of these starters are asking for – no one – including Clayton Kershaw – is worth $30 million a year – I understand Stearns being unwilling to sign someone even though owner Mark Attanasio is ready to write a check.

I’m also not interested in continuing to strip the farm system to get a pitcher like Chis Archer.

But the fact of the matter is, a rotation of Chase Anderson, Zach Davies, Jhowlys Chacin and take your pick of Brent Suter, Brandon Woodruff, Junior Guerra and Aaron Wilkerson, and you don’t have a real contending rotation. (I don’t even consider Yovani Gallardo a candidate because that would guarantee failure).

No matter when Jimmy Nelson returns, how soon will he be able to regain his awesome form of last season?

One stud pitcher at the top of the lineup and you have a legitimate contender.

TOUGH SITUATION

Stearns is caught between a rock and a hard place. The free agent pitchers are ridiculously priced and the cost of a good starter in a trade isn’t worth stripping your farm system.

Sure they made Yu Darish (who I don’t like) an offer, but they once made C.C. Sabathia an offer ($100 million) which wasn’t even close to what he signed for, so don’t get too excited over the Darvish offer.

One thing is for sure, this Brewers team will be fun to watch and they will score runs – they might have to some nights in order to win some games.

Just don’t get too excited if this is their rotation come Opening Day. You would be fooling yourself.