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James Havrilla

Portage's James Havrilla

Jonathan Miano, File, The Times

Back in the day, Jim Havrilla was a 6-foot-11 center, forming half of Portage's "twin towers" duo with Mike Wologo before his basketball career took him to Western Michigan and Europe, where he played 13 years professionally.

When his son, James, started out in youth hoops, Jim had a different plan in mind.

"My dad was my coach and he wanted me to be a point guard," the younger Havrilla said. "Kindergarten to fourth grade, I was a point guard."

In the years since, Havrilla has played every position on the court, even his dad's old five spot in the post, before returning to his roots as a senior with the Indians.

"This summer, Coach (Rick Snodgrass) said, 'James, we trust you with the ball, we want you to be the point guard,'" Havrilla said. "I said, 'OK, Coach, I got you.'"

At 6-foot-7, Havrilla is the tallest point Snodgrass has had in 34 years as a head coach.

"He's been pressured a lot and hasn't made a lot of mistakes," Snodgrass said. "He's grown up around the game. He understands the game. He does a nice job seeing the court. He's one of our captains. He gives us great leadership."

Snodgrass takes advantage of Havrilla's versatility as well. When Jalen Smith comes in, Havrilla shifts to wherever he's needed.

"On specific plays, I'm the 2 or 3," Havrilla said. "One specific offensive set, we try to get the switch in the post. Defense, it's just the same. One possession, I'm guarding a point guard, the next, I'm guarding a big guy. It's a whole different challenge. It's a lot of fun. I'm enjoying it."

Personally, Havrilla favors the two or three spots, where he is still involved in bringing the ball up, while also getting more looks at shots and an occasional opportunity to use his height in the paint.

"He's got a lot of untapped potential," Snodgrass said. "He's one of the youngest kids in his class, so he's still growing into his body."

More slender-built than his dad, Havrilla was a lanky 170 pounds as a sophomore, when he was brought up to varsity. While he's never going to be a bruiser, he takes a lot of pride in the weight room work he's done to bulk up to 210.

"I'm not sure how much more weight I can gain, but I can gain more muscle," he said. "I'm able to hold my own while still being mobile."

That's a big reason why Snodgrass thinks Havrilla's game still has plenty of ceiling above him. DePauw and Earlham are both interested in the 3.8 student.

"I think I'm still finding myself as a player," he said. "At the basketball camp, that was the Earlham coach's biggest point. It's been tough, but my best basketball is still to come. I'm excited about that."

It isn't always easy being the child of a parent who was an accomplished athlete, but Havrilla had no issues whatsoever.

"He never pressured me," he said of his dad. "He always encouraged me. It's very important to have that push. When I'm getting tired at the end of practice and my dad's over there, he wants me to do better, it makes me want to do better. He's been totally supportive. He's always let my coaches coach."

The two haven't played one-on-one in a while, but they have shooting contests all the time.

"It's always pretty close," Havrilla said. "He likes to brag, to show off his shot. He's like 95 percent on free throws. It's fun to compete against him. He was a really smart player. He always says basketball is like 80 percent mental. He's increased my intelligence of game. It's been one of my biggest things to improve."


Sports reporter

Jim was keeping standings on his chalkboard from the time he could print and keeping kickball stats in grade school at St. Bridget's. He covers all manner of prep sports for The Times and is a long-suffering Chicago Cubs fan.