Nalley sets Forest Park's toneDecember 31, 2020
By JIMMY LAFAKIS
FERDINAND — As the Forest Park boys basketball team prepared for their 9 a.m. practice this past Monday, the student-athletes shot around at various baskets. Junior forward Landon Nalley shot the ball through the hoop several times in a row. When teammates shared quick-witted quips with Nalley, their words created effervescent laughter.
Wiping the smile off his face would have proved impossible. An ear-to-ear grin signified his love for representing the Rangers on the court.
“It means everything to me, really,” Nalley said. “We walk in here and look at those two state banners up there. It’s the reputation that Forest Park basketball has, and it’s everything with the atmosphere and fans. You really couldn’t ask for more.”
Nalley has found a solid middle ground through basketball. He knows when to have fun, but he also understands his tasks at hand.
“He’s a hard worker, but I think he’s more than just that,” Forest Park head coach David Welp said. “He’s a well-rounded individual who works very hard at basketball. He’s a very fit kid. He’s really worked on getting in shape and being in basketball shape. I think he’s very dedicated. There’s a lot of different things that you can say.”
Nalley worked his way into the starting lineup as a sophomore. He was humbled by the chance to start, but his role served as a reminder to never settle.
“It was definitely a privilege,” Nalley said. “I kept working and working. I was a sophomore and didn’t play any varsity freshman year. There was a little chip on my shoulder. Somebody could come and take my spot. I just kept working.”
His work ethic left a lasting impression on Welp.
“I think he definitely brings a sense of mental toughness,” Welp said. “He never gets too high. He never gets too low. He’s kind of in the middle. If good things happen, he’s not going to let that bother him and get too high. He’s not going to get too low. If he makes a mistake, he’s going to make the next play as best as he can.”
In that sense, Nalley chooses substance over style. He is the type of player who enjoys doing several tasks that might not show up in the official stat sheet.
“Landon is not a flashy player, but he does all the little things that we ask him to do,” Welp said. “He is just a huge contributor — a player who does all the little things necessary for our team to win. He’s a team player.”
Although Welp wants to see Nalley grow as a vocal leader, he acknowledged an important sentiment. The junior’s even-keeled nature sets a positive example for the younger Rangers.
“Anybody can be a leader,” Nalley said. “It may make the younger classes look up to you a little more. They know you have more experience.”
Nalley and Welp have developed a strong player-coach bond both on and off the court. Nalley broadened his horizons in Welp’s computer science class, and Welp took note of his leadership skills in the classroom.
The mutual respect translates to the hardwood.
“He’s telling us what we need to work on and what we need to fix,” Nalley said. “We come to practice the next day and get reps. He pushes us to the limits. That’s all that we can ask for, really.”
The COVID-19 pandemic caused the Rangers to quarantine for nearly two weeks in December. During that time, the coaching staff assigned basketball and weightlifting workouts to the team.
“I feel like Landon Nalley is the type of kid who would do those on a daily basis,” Welp said. “He will do what we ask him to do. That just fits his mold of who he is for our program. He is a guy who grinds out each day. He plays every single day as hard as he can. That’s all we can ask out of him.”
Nalley’s discipline is rooted from something simple yet complex — his unwavering passion for the sport.
“Like everybody says, basketball in Indiana is just different,” he said. “It’s fun to play. You’ve got to love the game to play it.”
Ultimately, Nalley contributes to the foundation of trust within the Forest Park program.
“He has a lot of trust within our coaching staff,” Welp said. “I believe he has trust within his teammates. He trusts himself. I feel like he trusts who we are as a team and as a program.”
The Rangers do not know what lies ahead, but they can place their trust in one constant. When Nalley enters the arena, his signature grin will spread far and wide.
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