Vermilion point guard Kyle Nader is not the leading scorer for his team, which for the third time in seven years is back in the Division II regional tournament.
But he is the leading talker.
Nader does a lot of things well for the Sailors, including scoring and taking pressure off Cameron Kuhn, whose success has been well-documented. Kuhn is the undisputed focal point of opposing defenses, but also fairly quiet.
What coach Kurt Habermehl says is Nader’s most important trait is his willingness to talk, in good times and bad, to his teammates and coaches.
It’s something Nader, a captain and the only junior that sees regular time for the Sailors, uniquely exhibited last season as a sophomore starter on another veteran-laden team.
“He’s our most vocal guy, and that he’s a captain shows how the rest of our guys think of him,” Habermehl said. “He has to be vocal. It’s expected of our point guards, to direct people, on the court and off. He fills a void there for us.”
Nader will lead his teammates into Bowling Green’s Stroh Center tonight to take on 25-1 Norwalk in the regional semifinal.
And chances are the Truckers and their fans will get to know him quickly, by way of his on-court chatter.
“I love to be loud and talking constantly, but last year, (being vocal) was hard at first because I was new to the (varsity) team and an underclassman,” Nader said this week as the Sailors went through light practices and shootarounds in preparation for tonight. “But they accepted me and respect me, and we’ve grown closer and closer.
“Coach preaches communication on the court, and we’re at a point where it’s easy now.”
Of course, Nader’s talking wouldn’t have much impact if he wasn’t a darn good player, as well. The 6-foot-3 point guard does it all.
Kuhn deservedly gets many headlines and accolades, but Nader can score, too. He averaged 11.4 points per game in the regular season and has scored 14 points per outing in the four postseason victories.
And he’s effective on the offensive end in a variety of ways.
“He’s a very versatile player,” said Avon coach Kevin Sapara, whose team split with the Sailors this season. “He can shoot the ball, he can bring the ball up the floor, he can get to the hoop. He seems to do whatever is asked of him. He is a very athletic player.”
Yet his offensive ability is only one part of his value. Take, for instance, the Sailors’ sectional final win over Keystone on March 1.
Nader struggled shooting against the Wildcats, going 2-for-14 from the field and scoring seven points. And yet Nader — again, the team’s point guard — corralled 17 rebounds and played a key role in the Sailors getting to the district. He leads the team in rebounding, averaging seven a game, and assists, at more than five.
“What makes him effective is his aggressiveness and his willingness to do the little things,” said EC coach Phil Kuchta, whose squad lost twice to Vermilion. “He’s versatile as a lengthier guard, but what makes him and Vermilion special is that they have guys that will do whatever it takes to win.”
At this stage in the season, whatever it takes likely includes, as it has all season, Nader (and post Forrest Boyd) performing well and keeping teams honest in their defense of Kuhn. Vermilion is not deep, with a six- or seven-man rotation, and doesn’t get much production — statistical, at least — aside from that trio.
Thus, Nader — who is close friends with Kuhn and said they have constantly pushed each other to get better — probably will have to take some of the burden off Kuhn offensively and defensively, perhaps against Norwalk star point guard Ben Haraway, who averages 17.5 points and five assists.
No pressure, young man.
“What stands out about Kyle is his athleticism. He’s a freak of an athlete,” Habermehl said. “He can do it all on both ends. He’s 6-3, plays point guard and guards posts. That’s pretty rare.
“His skills take a lot of pressure off Cameron.”