Underclassmen, especially freshmen, have been known to wilt under the varsity spotlight.
Don’t put Bureau Valley sophomore Parker Neuhalfen in that group.
The 6-foot-2 point guard was brought up to the varsity a year ago by then-coach Eric Lawson and responded with 14 points, three rebounds and two steals per game. He was named to the second team Three Rivers all-conference squad, and also received all-state honorable mention notice.
“I was pretty nervous,” said Neuhalfen of a year ago, when he helped the Storm finish 12-14. “It was a big jump going from junior high basketball straight to the varsity, but I knew a lot of the guys that were playing. I played with them in the past, and they showed me the tricks of the trade.”
Jason Marquis, an assistant last year and this year’s head coach, gave input about bringing up the freshman and backed up Lawson’s decision.
“I think we saw with Parker’s ability; he was certainly ready,” Marquis said. “I think we saw a group of people who embraced somebody who could come in and provide a lift for us, particularly on the scoring end of things.”
There has been no sophomore slump for Neuhalfen, who is averaging 16.8 points, 3.8 rebounds, 2 steals and 1.5 assists per outing. He is a shoot-first type point guard, as that is what suits this particular Bureau Valley team the best, and he prepared that way in the offseason.
He worked on his outside shot all summer, extending his range to 22 feet. He has made 30 of 80 3-point field goal attempts, an efficient 37.5 percent.
“That makes me more dangerous, knowing that when you cross the volleyball line, you have the ability to hit a shot,” Neuhalfen said.
Neuhalfen also has the ability to drive and hit a mid-range jumper. He has connected on 84 of 148 2-point field goal attempts, prompting Marquis to give his point guard a green light on offense.
“If it was a kid who was shooting 30 percent and scoring 20 points, I think that might frustrate some people,” Marquis said.
What Marquis really likes about Neuhalfen’s game, however, is the player is totally oblivious to his own statistics. The only number that counts is the Storm’s win total. They’re 14-8 and 3-4 in the Three Rivers after surviving pesky Amboy on Friday night in Manlius. The Clippers’ gadgety 1-3 zone with a chaser limited Neuhalfen to four points, all at the free-throw line.
“With all those individual skills, I think the thing that stands him out the most is he’s a team-first guy,” Marquis said. “He doesn’t care if he’s scoring two or 20 – if the team’s winning, he’s happy about that. I think all the kids on our team know that about him and respect that attribute.”
Neuhalfen is a three-sport athlete at Bureau Valley. He started several games this past football season at quarterback, and could fill that role for the varsity squad in 2013. In track, he was a sprinter and jumper for the Storm, but admitted track is merely something he does to stay busy and in shape.
It’s basketball that catches Neuhalfen’s fancy, and he’s excited about the current edition of the Storm. A championship in the Erie Christmas tournament, sealed by a 51-39 victory over Orion, showed they’re capable of great things.
“I think we fit in the mix with all of those teams,” Neuhalfen said. “I’m just ready to see what we can do.”