At 17 wins and 7 losses, the Mercer County Vikings men’s basketball team is on pace for its best finish since Coach Howard Levy took the job five seasons ago. With four games left to play in the regular season, the Mercer Vikings are in second place trailing only Essex County in Division II of the Garden State Athletic Conference (GSAC).
This is a significant improvement compared to the 4 win and 24 loss record that the Vikings posted last season. This turn around by the Vikings gives them a chance to earn their second Regional XIX title under Coach Levy.
“I knew that we’d be better this year because some of the guys got some good experience last year, and we brought in some good players,” said Levy.
Last season, the team was full of first year players that returned to this years team. Fillip Sekulic, 6 foot 10 inch center from Montenegro, Europe, is the only player who has been in the starting five for two straight seasons. “Last year was really hard because a lot of guys just came out of high school. In high school they play different, this is more team basketball,” said Sekulic.
Another problem last year was that several players were ineligible because they failed to meet the teams academic requirements. Of those players, was 6-foot tall star shooting guard from Mount Holly, New Jersey, Mustafa El-Amin. He currently averages 19.5 points per game, and if he keeps that pace he’ll be the highest scoring player the Vikings have had since Coach Levy took the team in 2008.
Coach Levy said of El-Amin’s success this year, “Mustafa’s very very talented. He’s strong. He’s fast. I don’t think he’s got too many weaknesses. He’s definitely got a great ability to get us easy baskets.”
El-Amin practiced with the team last year, but this is his first season playing in games, so he’ll be able to lead the team to success next year as well.
When asked how it feels being such a great scorer as a first year player, El-Amin simply said, “It feels great, but it’s not just me. Everyone plays a part on this team.”
Although El-Amin is putting up great numbers, he’s not the only player on the team doing so. Along side him, there are three other players on the team who average double digit points during inter-conference games, which are most important in the standings. These players are Fillip Sekulic, Barry Brockington, and Andre Wilburn.
“Coming into this year, we knew the team was a lot more together, and our starting five has a lot more talent than last year,” said second year small forward from Chester, PA, Andre Wilburn.
The Essex County Community College Wolverines are currently in first place with an undefeated 14 win record in conference. The Vikings and Wolverines have met twice this season, and the Wolverines won both match ups. If all goes accordingly, it is likely that the two teams meet up in this year’s Region XIX championship.
“To beat that team, everyone’s got to be on the same page. The way we’re trying to teach is so nobody thinks about themselves, everyone needs to think about the team,” said Coach Levy.
The scoring demonstrates team effort, and the players agree with coach; Filip Sekulic says, “That’s what basketball is about, getting all five guys included.”
The Vikings have locked up a spot in the playoffs but Coach Levy says, “We still have a ways to go to be good enough to get to where we want to go, which would be the regional finals.”