Germantown — When his own player's ego feels just a tad threatened by the achievements of his extremely talented son, Zak, Germantown boys basketball coach Steve Showalter will pull out an old grainy video of himself dunking in a game some years ago.
But the former international player and national three-on-three champ knows who's casting the bigger shadow these days, and he's not shy about showing a father's pride about it either.
"I could jump a little," said Steve, "but not like Zak. He can absolutely fly.
"I think I started touching the rim around sixth or seventh grade," Zak said, "but it just sort of came out a little more this year (with a series of explosive dunks). I started working with Dave (strength and conditioning coach Schmitz) everyday in the off-season.
"It really helped with my explosiveness, strength and core."
Throw in the already deadly jump shot, the wide variety of approaches he takes in slashing to the basket, his almost "third-eye" ability to find open teammates and his fine, almost dogged student's approach to improving his already very wide overall game, and no wonder opponents almost throw up their hands in trying to guard him.
He recently earned WBCA Division 1 and AP all-state honors this season and was just named NOW Newspapers' All-Suburban Player of the Year.
Tough to guard
"What really jumps to mind about Zak is that he will never let himself be outworked," said Nicolet coach Paul Hepp. "You add in that work ethic to his obviously improved skill level and that just makes him so dangerous from so many spots on the court.
"He's just so multi-faceted," Hepp said. "He can hurt you from all over the place."
And that same determined approach carries over to all facets of his life, as the 6-2 guard, an All-Suburban choice last season, led Germantown to a 24-2 record, including an unbeaten North Shore Conference season and a ranking as high as second in state polls.
"He'll be the first to tell you, he's not a genius," said Steve, "but he has a 3.8 GPA and as hard as he works on his game, he works that much on his studies. I'm not in school to watch these guys all the time, but having him around the house I can see how much work a real student/athlete has to put in.
"It's amazing. We'll have a road game and we may not get home until 11 p.m. and then he stays up a couple of more hours. He has his priorities straight and that has always impressed me because staying ahead in school nowadays is tougher than ever, what with AP and college prep classes.
"… He just has a high-level of competitiveness in everything that he does."
And a very practical sense of why he's doing it all.
"During the season it gets a little tougher," said Zak, "but I've got to do it to keep the grades up. During the season I'll get to bed usually around 11 p.m. but then I'm up around 6 a.m. In the off-season I'll get a little more sleep."
He'll need it, because with his game improving by leaps and bounds over the last year, the college offers are becoming more and more enticing and are coming from bigger and bigger schools. Both father and son are mum for the moment on any inklings or long-range decisions preferring to wait until summer before making any kind of moves.
And that kind of patience is just a continuation of the thoughtful approach that has made Zak, a junior guard, the third Germantown All-Suburban POY in the last four years. Loyola-Chicago center Ben Averkamp was POY in both 2007-08 and 2008-09 while at Germantown.
Zak averaged 19.5 points a game on 50 percent shooting, hitting 43 3-pointers and getting to the line more than 150 times (75 percent average). He averaged five rebounds a game, dished out a team-high 106 assists and was second on the team with 46 steals.
Players complement each other
He worked hand-in-glove with two other experienced players, senior defensive ace Malcolm Bowers and junior point guard Josh Mongan, to form one of the best backcourts in the state.
"We each brought a different kind of game to the table and that's what let us work so well together," said Bowers, also an All-Suburban selection. "I like to drive and work on my defense, Josh is a distributor and shooter and Zak does it all, driving and shooting and making things happen."
And because opponents had to spend so much time and effort on Showalter it made the Warhawks (who averaged north of 75 points a game this season) almost impossible to stop as a unit. Just ask Whitefish Bay senior forward Jamie Schneck, another All-Suburban choice, what it was like having Zak leading the Germantown attack.
"Zak is just so tough to guard both inside and outside," Schneck said. "What makes him so great is his versatility. He can post, he can drive, he can shoot outside. He was just so frustrating to work against."
That frustration showed in the outcomes this season, as Bay won the WIAA state Division 2 title, but were stoned twice by the Zak Showalter-led Warhawks, each time by double digit margins.
Zak's tenacity was rewarded in other ways this season, as he, Mongan, Bowers and Alex Lloyd were named quad captains this year.
"We're all looked up to," Zak said, "and we tried to do the right things. It sort of showed the other guys that we couldn't mess around too much or else we wouldn't get to where we wanted to this season."
Fired up for next season
And the Warhawks did come up a little short of their ultimate goal this year, falling in an intense and controversial Super-Sectional game to Appleton East. That frustrating defeat has already added intensity to the strong fire that already burns within the belly of the junior-dominated team.
"Heck, that's going to burn forever," Zak said. "We'll be even tighter now, because wanted to get to the Kohl (Center in Madison). We wanted that experience that Josh and I had as freshmen (at state in 2008-09). We want to get to state and earn that gold ball (a state championship).
"… Everyone is impatient, but we'll focus in on the task at hand."
And that thought should worry everyone in the North Shore and the state next season for very good reason.
AT A GLANCE
Zak Showalter joins Ben Averkamp in an elite club.
ALL-TIME GERMANTOWN ALL-SUBURBAN SELECTIONS
2011 - Zak Showalter, junior guard (POY); Malcolm Bowers, senior guard
2010 - Showalter, sophomore guard.
2009 - Ben Averkamp, senior center (POY)
2008 - Averkamp, junior center (POY)
2007 - Bobby Komorowski, senior guard; Steve Showalter (COY)
2001 - Andrew Harmon, senior guard
2000 - Harmon, junior guard
1991 - Andrew LeTourneau, senior guard
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