Basketball teams at any level of play win a lot of games due to great guard play.
The first IFN All-Area boys basketball team would win a lot of games for that reason.
The honor squad, chosen by the members of the IFN Sports Staff, features a plethora of prep players who excel in the backcourt.
The team is led by Player of the Year choice Paul Marandet (see Player of the Year story to read more on Marandet).
The Warsaw junior point guard has done it all in a stellar season for the Tigers, who will take an 18-4 mark into sectional play Tuesday night. Warsaw won the Northern Lakes Conference championship by going 7-0 in league play.
Joining Marandet on the IFN first team are fellow backcourt stars Kyle Mangas of Warsaw, Alex Clark of Wawasee, Alex Thacker of Tippeanoe Valley and Nate Walpole of Whitko.
Kyle Mangas, Warsaw
It’s been a stellar sophomore season for hard-working Kyle Mangas.
The 6-2 guard is the top scorer at 12 points-per-game for a well-balanced offense for the Tigers. Mangas excels thanks to the ability to score from a variety of spots on the floor.
“I knew there was a chance that Kyle would be really good this season for us and he has been,” said Warsaw coach Doug Ogle. “He played some varsity for us last year as a freshman and showed flashes.
“I’ve been impressed with his poise and with his ability to score in a variety of ways. He’s a good 3-point shooter, a good free throw shooter and can finish. He’s also fearless and not afraid of the big moment.
“Kyle has a high ceiling because he is a really hard worker. He’s very coachable, a good listener and takes nothing off in practice. He’s a hard worker and dependable, just like his older brother Jake. That’s impressive to me. Kyle is also unusually dependable for such a young player.”
Mangas also averages 3.2 rebounds per game and is second on the Tigers in assists and third in three-pointers made.
Alex Clark, Wawasee
A whole lot of time spent in the gym working on his game is paying off for Alex Clark.
The Wawasee senior guard ranks second in scoring for the Warriors at just under 14 points-per-game. He is also first in assists and second in both rebounding and three-pointers.
“What impresses me the most about Alex is that in my 30 years in coaching, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a bigger gym rat,” said Wawasee coach Steve Wiktorowski. “He’s so dedicated. He’s always working on his game and putting the time in.
“I’ve seen a lot of growth in him this season. He’s much more of a complete player now. Since Christmas, especially, he has rally taken care of the ball.
“His physical strength is impressive. You don’t see that from a lot of point guards. He can get to the rim and finish. He can also post up, as well as shoot the three.”
Wawasee is 11-11 heading into sectional play this week.
Alex Thacker, Tippecanoe Valley
Alex Thacker has drawn a lot of attention from opposing defenses this season.
He’s handled the challenge in a big way for coach Bill Patrick’s team, which shared the Three Rivers Conference title with Rochester and Southwood at 6-1.
“Teams have had to guard Alex with two and three guys this year and that has opened things up for others on our team,” said Patrick. “Alex does a lot for us. He’s one of the best, if not the best, guard in the area.
“He is competitive, hates to lose and just loves to play basketball. His quickness and his ball handling are his big strengths.”
Thacker, who did not play last year, leads Valley in scoring at 19 points-per-game. He is first on the Vikings in steals and second in rebounds, assists and 3-pointers.
“I thought that Alex would have a good year for us,” Patrick remarked. “He played well for us as a sophomore.”
The Vikings sit at 14-8 going into sectional action at West Noble.
Nate Walpole, Whitko
Nate Walpole has also thrived this season despite being the man to stop on his squad.
Walpole leads the Wildcats in scoring at 20 points-per-game. He is also first on his team in assists and steals and adds four rebounds per game.
For a program that had just over a dozen players active a year ago, Walpole has taken over a leadership role for Whitko as a sophomore. Walpole’s numbers come from being double-teamed most nights while other teammates were still getting their sea legs.
“Nate has done a good job adjusting on the fly,” said first-year Whitko coach Roger Fleetwood. “He is just a sophomore and has a lot to learn about patience. When to attack and not attack. When to take over and when to get his teammates involved and bring them along. He was really the only one who had valuable varsity minutes last year. You can tell he has matured, he is really shooting the ball well and taking smarter shots.”
“He’s still young as a sophomore and makes some sophomore decisions at times,” added Fleetwood. “But he has a tremendous sense for the game and getting his teammates involved. He still has so much to learn but is already a very good player.”
IFN Second Team
The IFN second team includes Warsaw seniors Jake Mangas and Rashaan Jackson, Wawasee senior Gage Reinhard, Triton junior Jordan Anderson and Tippecanoe Valley junior Neil Clampitt.
The elder Mangas averages almost eight points-per-game and three rebounds per outing. The smart 6-3 forward, who was the quarterback for the Warsaw football team this past season, is shooting 61 percent from the field.
Jackson has come on in the second half of the season for the Tigers. The strong 6-3 forward is second for Warsaw in scoring at 9.4 points-per-game. Jackson also leads his team in steals and grabs three rebounds per contest.
Reinhard has shown his toughness for the Warriors. The senior guard, despite a shoulder injury from a fantastic football season as the Wawasee quarterback, leads his team in scoring at 14 points-per-game. Reinhard is also first in three-pointers and second in assists.
Anderson has been solid all year long for the Trojans, who shared the Northern State Conference title with John Glenn at 6-1 in the final year of the league. The junior averages 9.5 points and three rebounds per game and is second in three-pointers.
Clampitt has excelled in a number of areas for the Vikings. The junior is second in scoring at almost 14 points-per-game to go with being the top rebounder and top three-point shooter for Valley.