Vikings And Lady Vikings Finish Strong, On To Playoffs
After suffering through back-to-back subpar seasons the past two years with records of 3-11 last season and a record of just 6-8 the prior season, the Vikings have firmly placed their misfortunes behind them and had a strong season, finishing second in the Brooklyn AA League with a record of 10-4 and a playoff berth.
A major key to their success has been a concerted team effort. In years past, the Vikings have leaned heavily on the efforts of players who tended to score as much as possible. Players such as Earnest Abdul- Mateen IV, Shevon Anisca and Cori Johnson have all scored over 14 points per game, but those points did little to contribute to actual team wins. This year’s team, however, has gotten contributions from all across the board. The Vikings have only one player, Jalen Blaize, who is averaging double figures at just 10 points per game, and two players averaging over 8 points per game in Mikael Burnett Wala and Femi Odukale. They also have Isaiah Richards and Kareem May – both are pouring in just over 6 points per game. This balanced attack not only has the Vikings in second place in the Brooklyn AA League, but it also has them in prime position to make serious noise during the playoffs.
The boys aren’t the only ones using a team-oriented and well-balanced attack this year. The Lady Vikings are using this same method as well. The Lady Vikings finished with an overall record of 20- 4 to go along with an unprecedented 12-0 record during league play. This level of success is nothing new to the Lady Vikings. Over the past four seasons, the Lady Vikings have lost just two league games while managing a first place finish in their Brooklyn AA League. The success these young women continue to find comes as no surprise as they will be looking to grab their third straight PSAL championship in a row.
Even with all the success Coach Anwar Gladden has experienced in his coaching career, he understands that there is still work to do. “We just want to continue to win; we’ve won the past two championships and we want that to continue. We’re not a team that’s going to impress you with players that will get 20-30 points a night. We share the ball, move bodies and attack you from all angles. It’s hard to game plan for a team where the contributions come from everywhere. We’ve had a good season, but the work isn’t over yet,” he said.
What allows these Lady Vikings to continue to find so much success under the tutelage of Coach Gladden? Many feel he has done an amazing job during his coaching tenure, but Coach Gladden wants virtually no credit and instead praised the work of his players, their parents and his assistant coaches. “My assistant coaches do a great job of getting our team ready and fully prepared for each game. They’re a big key to my success. The players here are extremely coachable. They just want to work hard and win and, most importantly, their parents do a great job of pushing them not just on the court but in the classroom as well. It really is a collective effort,” said Coach Gladden.
Coach Gladden is happy staying in the shadows while his team takes center stage. “It’s not about me; it’s about the players. We won back-to-back titles, and I never received a ring. All of my players received rings, but I didn’t. I don’t care about those things. What I care about is winning and placing my players in the best position to get a scholarship to attend college. That’s what I care about.”
When asked how he continues to get his players motivated to perform at a high level year after year, he chuckled and said, “The media plays a small part in the motivation. We usually don’t get talked about too much until this time of the year. We sometimes get a little overlooked so that’s one thing we use as a small motivational tool.”
The women’s high school basketball world is starting to take notice of the Lady Vikings with two straight PSAL championships under their belt and a third title set firmly in their sights. Coach Gladden has certainly gained our attention now.