The 2009-2010 school year was a special one for West Lafayette High School.
The Red Devils won the state football crown that year and the boys basketball team got to the regional finals.
Could it happen again?
“The last time we did this, the football team won the state and we did not play very well for a lot of the season,” West Lafayette coach David Wood said. “But, we ended up in the regional final. We were the only school in the state of Indiana to be in the state finals in football and in the regional final for basketball.”
Five varsity basketball players are on the football team that reached the Class 3A state championship game and have not been able to practice basketball. They won’t be eligible to play until the Friday-Saturday games of the J&C Hoops Classic.
But, Wood isn’t concerned about their absence.
“The success on the football field helps us in two ways,” said Wood, who begins his 22nd season. “One, they are doing something special and they are winning. I think winning breeds winning. And, the second thing is there is no way we will peak early.
“Does it slow us down right now? Yes, it does. It is a process. I am hoping that their success on the football field helps our process.”
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One of those missing in action is senior guard Nai Carlisle, who was an Indiana Junior All-Star last year and has signed with San Jose State to play basketball. He decided to play football for the first time his senior year.
“I did them both in college,” Wood said. “He called and asked me what I thought and I told him to go be great.”
Carlisle is already great on the basketball court. The 6-foot-2 guard averaged 19.6 points, 5.8 rebounds and four assists a game last year.
“Obviously, Nai will be our go-to guy,” Wood said. “He is the best player to ever play here, at least statistically. We will be counting on him for leadership.”
But Carlisle isn’t the only player who excites Wood.
“I think Charlie Nycz has an opportunity to have an outstanding year,” Wood said. “I look for him to really have a breakout season as a junior. He is a guy we will count on a lot, but I also like my young guys.”
Nycz, a 6-foot junior, averaged 7.1 points a game. The young guys Wood is looking at are 6-2 sophomore Luke Staton, 6-2 sophomore Luke Touloukian, 6-5 sophomore Matt Krause, 6-2 freshman George Karlaftis, 6-2 sophomore Auggie Schott, 6-2 sophomore Colin Merriott and 6-3 freshman Nelson Mbongo. Senior Seth Warren returns from last year.
“I think my young guys have a lot of skill,” Wood said. “We will rely a lot on youth. I have five post players that I think can play and they are four sophomores and one freshman (Staton, Krause, Karlaftis, Schott, Merriott).”
West Lafayette is coming off a 14-10 season. The Red Devils lost in the first round of sectional in a two-overtime thriller to Western.
“I think this team could be really good,” Wood said. “We are relatively young, but I think we have the potential to be a very good team by the end of the season. We have to be a team that plays with great effort. If we have a weakness going in, I think it is rebounding and turnovers.”
WEST LAFAYETTE RED DEVILS
Coach: David Wood (279-196 in 22nd year)
2014-15 results: 12-10 (3-3 Hoosier Conference), lost to Western 49-46 (2OT) in sectional opener.
Best J&C Hoops Classic finish: Second (2011, 2014).
Key returnees: Nai Carlisle, sr.; Charlie Nycz, jr.; Luke Staton, soph; Luke Touloukian, soph; Seth Warren, sr.; Matt Krause, soph; Auggie Schott, soph.
Others to watch: Colin Merriott, soph; Nelson Mbongo, fr.; George Karlaftis, fr.