HomeNewsWomack credits chemistry for Northeast's success

Womack credits chemistry for Northeast’s success

Jalen Lee Womack is comfortable playing both center and wing. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Jalen Lee Womack isn’t sure if his team is the most talented.

But he knows there isn’t a closer team.

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Womack is a senior swingman on the Northeast High School basketball team.

And for the past four years, the Vikings have been taking steps every year. 

Every year this core was together, the group took another step.

This year, they’ve taken a huge one. 

Northeast sits at 17-4 overall, 11-1 in Public League play, as it heads into the Public League playoffs as the No. 2 seed.

First up for the Vikings is a showdown with Central, their biggest rivals, on Thursday.

It helps that the roster is filled with talent, but Womack sees another strength that has the Vikings rolling.

“I think it’s because we’ve been together for a long time, we are so close,” said Womack, who not only included his players in that, but also the coaching staff. “It’s my third year, and most of the guys are in their second or third year. A lot of chemistry. We know where we’re supposed to be. 

“It was hard to do, but it wasn’t. We stuck together, nobody left. Other teams had transfers. We didn’t. The first year, we knew we were progressing. First year, we were sophomores. We weren’t good. Last year we did a lot better. We had always seen the potential. We just knew we had to grow together.” 

Everyone did their part. Womack took pride in doing his.

Not only did he want to make himself better, his goal was to make the entire team better. 

Mission accomplished.

“Everyone kind of helps out everyone,” Womack said. “I’m one of the oldest, so I have kind of a leadership role. I like it, having that role. People look up to you. It’s a good feeling. I’m more of a lead-by-example guy. I don’t get hype. I just make sure I’m doing things so they see it and follow it. That’s how I try to lead. But it’s not really about what I do or anyone does. It’s about what we do. We’re good because of us.

“And our coach (Steve Novosel) is a huge part of it. He’s really important. We all have a connection, not just as a player, but as a person. I don’t think a lot of kids get the experience we have. He cares about us not as players, but as a person.” 

The feeling is mutual. 

Novosel speaks highly of Womack’s character. He also loves his basketball ability.

The Lawncrest native is a 6-foot-4 athlete, so on the defensive end, he serves as a rim protector and patrols the paint.

On offense, he has the skills of a wing guard, so he sets up outside and creates chaos by shooting, driving or getting teammates open shots. 

His versatility is something that helps because it allows him to fill in at different positions depending on the need.

“I don’t think it’s a lot, I just rotate,” Womack said. “I try to be a presence inside for us and make sure nobody gets to the rim. On offense, I can play the wing. It helps me so much because in college, I’m not a center, so I’m showing what I can do. I want to play in college and this is helping me become a better player, at the same time making us a better team.”

That’s the attitude that makes him the unsung hero on this team.

Basketball has always been something that has been a constant in Womack’s life.

The other is family, and he’s in the right one to get help with his game.

“My whole family has been involved in basketball since I was born,” Womack said. “My uncles played basketball, my cousin (Cire Worley), she went to Abington, she plays at UMass. I don’t remember where they all played, but they played. My dad played, too, he didn’t take it to the high school level.

“My parents are great role models, I look up everything they do. When I become a parent, I will use what they taught me because they’ve been great leaders. My family hasn’t just helped me with basketball. They help me with everything.”

Basketball is a huge part of Womack’s life, but he is much more than that.

“I’m a good artist, I really like to draw,” said Womack, who hopes to play college ball and major in business with a goal of becoming an entrepreneur or a real estate agent like his dad. “It came to me naturally, I’ve always been passionate about it ever since I was young. I could always draw. It’s something I enjoy.”

Now he’s just trying to draw up the perfect postseason, which begins this week.

Womack hopes this team can stick together for as long as possible while having fun and making a mark on Northeast basketball, a program he truly loves.

“If we win, it’s our chemistry, it’s our will to win for each other,” Womack said. “I think we can win the Public League and make states because of our bond. We have chemistry. We love playing together. Other teams might be better, but they don’t have what we have.

“Every game is important. We’ll play together, we’ll play hard and we’ll see what happens. I love playing for this team.”

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