By: Anne Larsen
Walk into the Olympia Safeway some Wednesday night before an Olympia Bears Boys Varsity basketball game and you will most likely see Michael Naipo digging into his pregame meal of macaroni and cheese. Michael, a Junior Co-Captain of the team has been a vital component in the team’s success this year. It has been an incredible season for the Olympia Bears, who are coming off a huge victory at home over Bellarmine Prep a few weeks back, and Michael by all accounts is a big part of that success.
His coaches, Mike Steen and Luke Salme, describe Michael as a “coaches player.” He’s the kid out on the courts that coaches see, but fans may overlook. The type of player that coaches watch and appreciate. Michael will be out on the court 95% of the time, but the fans may not realize his leadership role or his major contributions to the teams win, his coaches do. This Bears team is packed with superstars and amazing players, but you know you’ve done something right when your coaches give me your name to interview! Michael Naipo has the athletic ability, the personality, and his eye on the future, making him an incredible team player and individual standout. His coaches repeatedly describe him as unselfish, committed, and a player with great energy.
“Michael embodies what I want in a player.”
Michael has been hitting the courts for as long as he can remember. Being a typical team sports youngster, he grew up playing football, basketball and baseball. In recent years he has decided to focus his attention on basketball and now plays year round. “I really started training and realized that I had to focus on just one sport.” He has given basketball his full concentration and plays on traveling teams during the high school off season. Playing on a traveling sports team is a huge time commitment and can be a logistical nightmare, but Michael parents take it in stride. “My parents are a huge support. They drive me to all the traveling team games and practices. They are always there – at home and away games. They are totally supportive.” You can catch Michael off season lifting weights and shooting hoops at this neighborhood court.
Michael attended Centennial Elementary and Washington Middle School. His current coaches first saw him as a Freshman playing on the C team. ” As a 9th grader we saw his athletic abilities. He’s grown a lot in the past 3 years and has grown very close to all of us coaches.” Luke Salme
If you ask anyone to describe Michael on the basketball court, they will tell you he is the most “unselfish player” out there. Even Michael describes himself that way! That’s why it is always great when you can shine the spotlight on that individual that would never seek it, but so deserves it. Michael is a team sports kind of athlete. He loves basketball because of the close friendships he’s developed with his teammates. “You never get down on yourself – as teammates you pick each other up.” His coaches have built on his unselfish personality and put him in the position of co-captain as a Junior (traditionally two Seniors are captains). “His commitment to the team makes him a role model for the younger kids. He is very facilitating as a captain. The kid loves basketball. ” Luke Salme
Michael has the athletic abilities and the team sports personality dialed in. Now it’s time to move forward. Every year his goal has been to progress and do better than the year before. ” The coaches tell me that I need to score more. I get a lot of rebounds and assists. I always look to pass first, if I get a rebound I’ll see if people are open instead of trying to score.” That’s that unselfish personality taking over! Every athlete needs to be in a constant state of progression, otherwise they’ll plateau and never grow. Michael is crystal clear on what he needs to work on, and his coaches are too. His coaches want Michael to be the best all around player that he can be so they are going to sharpen up his offensive game. ” We do want him to score more. If he wants to play at the next level he will have to work more on his own to score.” Luke Salme
“How big do you want to dream?”
That is the question his coaches ask him. BIG! Michael certainly sees college in his future. Most likely a smaller college so that he can get plenty of time out on the courts. But life right now is school, practice, sleep – repeat.
You still have a chance to catch the Olympia Bears Varsity Boys Basketball in action this upcoming Wednesday, February 8th in Shelton. Come cheer on the team and watch Michael in action.