The Vandalia Leader

Follow Us On:

Athlete of the Week

Posted on Friday, February 9, 2024 at 11:26 pm

By Brandie Gay

In the past few weeks, senior Nikos Connaway has led his team to a couple of wins. The week of January 15th, the boys competed in the 81st Tony Lenzini Palmyra Tournament and placed third and the week of January 22nd, taking first place in the 99th Annual Bowling Green Tournament.  When asked, Nikos said that “Winning the Bowling Green tournament was one of our goals at the beginning of the year, so it’s a huge momentum boost for our team. It being my senior year, it makes it a little extra special winning my last Bowling Green Tournament and it makes it even more special having done it with my best friends.”

Connaway has accomplished a lot in the four years he has been at Van-Far. Just in basketball, NJ has racked up over 1000 points to join the Van-Far 1000’s Club, MaxPreps four time player of the game in the last two years, named to the All-Tournament team for the 99th Annual Bowling Green Tournament, 1st Team All-District & District Player of the Year for the past two years, 1st and 2nd Team All Conference, and EMO 1st Team All-Conference just to name a few.

Coach Pat Connaway said “NJ is a very smart/high IQ basketball kid.  He plays the game with little emotions.  He is very unselfish and is always looking to make the right pass to get his teammates easy buckets.  He realizes his challenges – being only 5’10 he knows he has to use his speed, quickness, and athletic ability to his advantage.  He also knows he has to be in the right position and make reads to “out think” his opponents to create an advantage.” When asked about what strengths do you believe NJ’s has that makes him a great athlete, Connaway explained “He is very humble and always pushes himself to be better.  He also has that competitive drive and the will to win.  There isn’t a moment too big for him on the floor that he doesn’t want the ball in his hands.”  Most coaches are not related to the players on the team but at Van-Far, Pat Connaway is not only the coach for the basketball and baseball teams but also the father of Nikos. Father and son duos are unforgettable at Van-Far. Being a father and coach; you’re a father figure to a lot more than just your kids. In the case of Lucas and Gage Gibson, Lucas is the head football coach and like Pat, they have coached their boys their whole life, especially during the last few years of high school. Being around the kids and seeing how many people look up to you. That is something a father & coach do when they care about the players just like they are your own kids. How does Father/Coach Pat Connaway keep his star athlete motivated and positive for the season, Connaway says “Honestly, I don’t do much.  He is a very motivated, self-driven person.  As a parent getting him motivated to clean his room and bring down his laundry is a task sometimes, but as his coach it’s pretty simple, the kid wants to win and succeed in everything he does.  The competitive nature takes over and drives him.”  As a Father, how hard is it to coach our son. Connaway explained for me it’s not hard at all.  I’ve done it since he was in 1st grade, Connaway adding, for him, it may not be so fun.  He gets hollered at more in the game than anyone, he gets to listen about the game or practice on the way to the gym, on the way home, at home you name it.  I expect a lot out of him and we put a lot on his shoulders to make sure the team has success.  You might want to ask him his opinion on this; he may not enjoy it as much.

Nikos Connaway is not only an explosive guard for the Van-Far boys basketball team, or one of the most exciting players in Northeast Missouri as stated in the Muddy River Newspaper in January of ’23, he is also a star athlete in other sports at Van-Far. Connaway also plays baseball and football. In baseball Connaway has earned 1st Team All-District for three years, 2nd Team All-Conference in 2021, and EMO All-Conference 1st Team in 2023.

As for Football, NJ has made EMO All-Conference 2nd Team as a Punter & Defensive Back and 1st Team All-District Defensive Back in ’22, and EMO All-Conference 1st Team as a Punter & Defensive Back and 1st Team All-District Punter & Defensive Back in ’23.

Nikos has performed especially well due to the national average According to MaxPreps, Nikos has made 297 points, 116 rebounds with 84 being defensive rebounds, 93 assists and 67 steals to round out his current stats with more games to go. Congratulations Nikos Connaway and the Van-Far Indians on a tremendous season so far. Keep it going!!