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Father and son leading Germantown's success

Germantown junior Zak Showalter (3) runs a drill with his father, Warhawks head coach Steve.

Germantown junior Zak Showalter (3) runs a drill with his father, Warhawks head coach Steve. Photo By Katie N. Gardner

Feb. 28, 2011

Some parents, regardless of their experience, become coaches only because their son or daughter will eventually be on the team.

Germantown boys basketball coach Steve Showalter is not one of them. In fact, he thought he would have been replaced by the time that happened.

"My sons were 6 and 4, I think, when I started coaching," Showalter said. "I was looking at the short term; I'd be someone to help out for a while until they found a real coach."

It turns out that real coach is Showalter, who played for Bo Ryan at UW-Platteville and has clinched his 10th winning season in 11 years with the Warhawks.

"I loved to play; I've been a basketball player my whole life," Showalter said. "Even in adulthood, I still enjoyed playing the game, going around the country in three-on-three tournaments, or any adult open basketball I could find. The coach that was here before me came into the police department where I work because he knew who I was. He had been asking me to help him on his staff. I had gotten to the age where my playing career was starting to slow down, so I thought I'd pitch in."

As of now, only four boys teams from the Milwaukee area's eight conferences have won at least 18 games every year since the start of the 2006-'07 campaign: Germantown, Racine St. Catherine's, Whitefish Bay Dominican and Wisconsin Lutheran.

Germantown is seeded first in the Division 1 playoffs with a 21-1 record and has won its last 11 games since a loss to De Pere.

The team finished 14-0 in the North Shore Conference and won its fourth league title in the last five years. Before Showalter was hired in 2000, the Warhawks won a total of two conference crowns.

"A lot of good kids have busted their rear ends to get us to this level," Showalter said.

One of them is Showalter's oldest son, Zak, a junior who is averaging a team-high 19.4 points to go with seven rebounds and four assists per game.

"When Zak was 9 months old, I'd have him sit on the floor because he couldn't stand and I'd roll a tennis ball to him," said Steve, whose other son, Jake, is a freshman on the junior varsity team. "I'd watch his eyes as he was watching the ball. It was kind of my way of getting him to start to learn to watch the ball. As he grew up, finally he started reaching for it. From there, it was all sports all the time with my sons. They always had a ball in their hands. Both of their first words were ball. That was the way we raised our sons."

Zak made varsity as a freshman and averaged seven points and three rebounds per game off the bench.

But that didn't stop some from wondering if Zak was on the team because his dad was the coach, even if Germantown ended up in its second straight state tournament.

"We battled a lot of that," Steve said. "We had some issues. But we had to be strong and we kind of knew what was right. . . . I could see it. It was pretty obvious to me he could help our team win."

As a sophomore, Zak made all-area honorable mention and first-team all-conference after averaging 17.5 points, six rebounds and three assists per game.

He needs just six more points to become the third player at Germantown with 1,000.

Although there is more to the Warhawks just Zak - Josh Mongan, Malcolm Bowers and Luke Fischer each averages 10 to 11 points per game - it helps him to be able to rack up accomplishments and remember that some thought there was favoritism involved when he was a freshman.

"I'd say that was motivation for me to strive to get better every day," Zak said. "I looked at it as needing to work harder every day to prove them wrong."

There certainly wasn't any favoritism after practice ended.

"On car rides home, sometimes it got real heated," Steve said. "Sometimes it was mellow. Some talks were good, some talks were bad. So his mom (Jill) had to make a rule: Once we got to the driveway and into the garage, we were no longer able to talk basketball. He was the kid and I was the dad once we got through the door.

"Now he has his own car and chooses not to ride with me anymore."

There's a reason for that.

"It's a lot nicer to get in your own car and listen to music," Zak said.

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