By Jim Sullivan
---- — BYFIELD — According to Triton boys basketball coach Dave Clay, his senior center Mike Dullea is a man of intangibles.
“Sometimes the star players don’t want to do the things that will help make the team better, but he does,” said Clay. “He gives me his best every practice. All of the little things I need out of a player, he gives me and provides examples for and teaches the younger players.”
Standing at a wiry 6-feet, 1-inch, Dullea has never been a Viking star. Home-schooled until full integration during his junior year, Dullea played freshman hoops and made the JV squad in his sophomore year when Clay was still the JV coach. One night that season, Clay dropped Dullea into the middle of a game to start his JV career. The kid was clutch.
“He didn’t show any signs of fear,” said Clay. “He grabbed every rebound I needed him to grab, and just stood like a rock in the middle. He didn’t get very much playing time until then, and you never would’ve guessed.”
With a senior-heavy varsity team during his junior year, Dullea decided to remain on the JV squad in 2012.
“I said, ‘Well, I can take this season off, which would be pointless, or I can try to help the JV team and just work with them, and do the most I can this way,’” said Dullea. “There is no comparing JV to varsity, the intensity levels are miles different. But I would not have changed anything I did that season for any reason.”
“The team is what it is because of all of us,” said Dullea. “So when Coach Clay gives me credit for doing anything on the court, I tell myself that really is everyone else helping me out. I am just glad to be a part of the team.”
Perhaps it was the extra year with the JV squad, but Dullea is still committed to his teammates’ success now just as he was last season.
“The varsity players will all be sitting on the floor, watching the JV game,” said Clay. “And he’s calling out screens from the stands. It’s almost like he is a coach in the stands. And he is doing it because he wants to see them succeed. On the bench, he is doing that as well. He is doing everything he possibly can to help his teammates out. He has a helping heart. He will go out of his way to help somebody out sometimes.”
“He gives me too much credit,” Dullea said of his coach. “I’m really just another player trying to help out in any way he can. If I can’t be out there helping out on the court, I will do whatever I can from the bench.”
Dullea is also a generous teammate in practice, a trait that Clay says is invaluable.
“When we are doing rebounding drills, there are a lot of kids who do not want to go against him because he is relentless,” said Clay. “He has the ball and is diving on the floor, he will dive on the floor for the ball. If it is intentionally throwing an elbow just to get to something, he will. He does that stuff nonstop.”
The third of four kids, Dullea blames his siblings and early childhood friends for his work ethic.
“If you’re going to commit to something, you have to commit to it every second that you are practicing or playing it,” said Dullea. “There is no sense in going halfway with something. I want to be able to go to sleep every day knowing that I’ve done everything that I can, and if that means getting a rebound, then that is what I’ve got to do.”
With the Vikings’ record at 5-5 at the halfway point of the season, the team has improved dramatically after last season’s 5-15 showing. But Dullea says his teammates are not happy to rest on their laurels, they have a long way to go in the next month.
“I am never satisfied with any season until it is over,” said Dullea, who has an interest in a career in law enforcement. “You can be happy with the win, but once it is done, you have to move on and get ready for the next one. You can’t just be happy with where you are at, you’ve always got to push yourself. That is how you improve.”
And if the Vikes stay on the path they are on now, they should be able to qualify for the state tournament.
“I’m excited,” said Dullea of his possible first tournament appearance. “If we do scratch that, when we make it, there will be no better feeling. Because I know I have the confidence in my team.”