Scott Novak: Duo key to reaching goalsPublished 8:44pm Monday, December 19, 2011
Part of the reason why the Niles boys’ basketball team is 4-0 heading into tonight’s cross-town contest with Brandywine as its guards.
Austin Parks and Matthew McLaughlin are making the Vikings’ machine go. While both possess obvious natural talents, it’s their hard work and determination to make their team a winner is what separates them from most players.
McLaughlin and Parks have spent countless hours working in their games. As a result, the Vikings are among the best basketball teams in the Big 16 Conference and all of southwest Michigan.
In a division that features the two-time defending state champions, Niles will be a factor in the West Division race this season. They will be one of the favorites to win the Class A District championship along with state champion Kalamazoo Central.
Veteran Niles coach Todd Pawielski is more than pleased with the effort of his standout guards and the entire team for that matter.
This team, with the exception of one game so far this season, has brought a new level of energy to the court. Niles is by no means big in terms of height, but it certainly plays big with athletic ability, determination and desire.
“These are two selfless and responsible kids,” Pawielski said. “There is never an issue on or off the court. They are where they are supposed to be, doing what they are supposed to do, all the time. Matthew and Austin have been all-conference players since their sophomore year and both have an excellent chance of achieving that honor again this year.
These are two kids that understand what sports are all ab”out. They listen and do everything that is asked of them. Their work ethic is outstanding. They are the kind of teammate every athlete should be lucky enough to play with.”
Pawielski said of Parks that he has been in the gym for the past year and had a great summer and AAU season.
“Austin has lived in the gym for the last year and had an outstanding summer with our team and playing AAU,” he said. “He has also dedicated himself to the weight room. He is bigger, faster and stronger than last year and it is easy to see the difference in him. I have never seen or had a player that has improved so much in one summer.”
For the better part of three seasons, McLaughlin has been the point guard for the Vikings.
Under his leadership, Niles is currently 34-10.
“Matthew is the heart and soul of our team,” Pawielski said. “His teammates look to him and follow his lead. If Matthew was asked to go 80 percent in a drill he would have no idea what you are talking about. He does everything as good as he can all the time. His physical and mental toughness is off the charts.”
As good of basketball players as Parks and McLaughlin are, they are better people. They are also excellent students.
“Matthew and Austin are also part of the core group that has enabled our basketball team to achieve Academic All-State status two years in a row,” Pawielski said.
There is obviously a lot of basketball still to be played. But if the Vikings are going to be successful this season, and I am sure they will be, part of that reason will be the efforts of Matthew McLaughlin and Austin Parks.