First-year Irving Nimitz boys basketball coach Joel Donalson has his team thinking playoffs.
Going into Friday’s 8 p.m. home game with Hurst L.D. Bell, Nimitz (10-12) is in fifth place in District 6-5A with a 4-5 record. Four of the nine teams in 6-5A make the playoffs.
That's a big deal for the Vikings. They came into the season with five consecutive district finishes of last or next to last.
After coaching stops at Wilmer-Hutchins (where he had been a high school star in the late 1980s) and Maypearl, Donalson’s goal at Nimitz is to run a disciplined program: no facial hair, no earrings, etc.
“We knew we’d probably lose some kids, but the ones that stayed would be the ones we can build around,’’ Donalson said. “The kids have been so receptive to what we’re trying to do. We concentrate very hard on defense. It is the same system we used at Lancaster when I was an assistant under Joe Rushing.’’
For scoring, Nimitz relies on 6-foot-3 Tray Baldwin and 6-1 Isreal Omigie.
Baldwin, a senior, leads the Vikings with a 21.3-point average. In district play so far, he’s had games of 25, 27 and 34 points. He’s also the top rebounder (5.0 per game) on a team without a lot of size.
“Tray’s a great offensive player and we don’t have restrictions on him,’’ Donalson said. “He has several ways he can score, he gets to the free throw line a lot and he shoots free throws well.’’
Only in the last few weeks have college coaches become aware of Baldwin, Donalson said.
Omigie, a junior, is averaging 12.9 points for the season, but 18.7 in district games. He’s coming off a 29-point effort in Tuesday’s 72-61 loss at Colleyville Heritage.
“He’s easy to coach because he’s smart,’’ Donalson said. “He handles the ball well and he’s very quick. Isreal is our best 3-point shooter.’’
Among the Nimitz accomplishments is a rare road sweep of city rivals Irving High (54-50) and Irving MacArthur (55-51 in overtime).
Three of the Vikings’ district losses have come by two points, including home losses to league-leader Richland (78-76) and to second-place Colleyville Heritage (56-54).
“People are getting excited about Nimitz basketball,’’ Donalson said. “Our kids are working hard. It would be great for them if we could make the playoffs.’’
Nimitz still has home games remaining against the two teams immediately ahead in the standings, fourth-place Grapevine (5-4) on Jan.31 and third-place MacArthur (5-3) on Feb. 7.