Hales Corners — Stephen Pelkofer has a strong family tradition to maintain as a Whitnall High School basketball player, but he is living up to the high standards set by his predecessors.
Stephen is following his cousin William, brothers Josh and Jared, sister Abbey and father Steve, all of whom played for the Falcons.
Jared played on Whitnall's 2004 WIAA State Tournament team, while Abbey was on the Falcons' 2005 state girls squad. Josh was part of Whitnall's back-to-back Woodland Conference championship units in 2007-08 and 2008-09.
In addition, William and Jared are the only two Whitnall players to ever total over 1,000 points for their careers.
Stephen, a junior guard for this year's Falcons, continues to do the Pelkofer family name proud, as he led the team to a share of the Woodland Black Division championship, a WIAA Division 2 regional crown and a fine 17-8 overall record.
He averaged 16.5 points while playing an all-around game as well, helping out with rebounds, assists, steals and stingy defense, and for these accomplishments, Pelkofer earned a spot on the 2010-11 NOW Newspapers All-Suburban Team.
"He was our team leader and the guy everyone looked to," Whitnall coach Kent Kroupa said.
Pelkofer was always capable of scoring, but he was also unselfish and did his best to help his teammates.
One good example came when the Falcons met rival New Berlin Eisenhower in a regional playoff game. The Lions clamped down defensively on Pelkofer, not letting him get good shots, but he responded by passing off to others and helping Dan Weymier enjoy a career night with 22 points, including 17 in the second half.
"The defense was tough against him, but he made everyone else better, especially Weymier," Kroupa said.
Pelkofer said of that night, "They (the Lions) were really focused on me, so I decided to get the other guys involved, especially Weymier and (Bryan) Nagy."
Kroupa had high expectations for Pelkofer coming into the season, but added that he exceeded even those.
"I knew he would have a good year, but through his hard work and dedication, he became a very good basketball player," the coach said. "By the end of the season, he was the best player on the floor in some games.
"He is the hardest-working athlete I have coached in basketball. He would come early (to practice) and stay late. He worked for two hours after practice on our shooting machine. All those extra hours helped him develop an edge mentally."
That mental edge was also honed by his years of playing basketball with his family members, especially Josh and William, both in the backyard and in organized leagues.
When he was in second grade, he played up three levels to be on a fifth-grade squad with Josh and William.
"I actually played three levels up in both second and third grade, and that helped me out later," Pelkofer said.
He continued to develop his game and as a sophomore, was one of Whitnall's top scorers behind William.
"He knew his role," Kroupa said. "He had a good year on varsity but he knew that William was the senior."
When William graduated last spring, Stephen knew his role would change as a senior.
"I knew I had to pick up my scoring, and Nagy helped out as well," Stephen said.
Now that the season is over, Stephen is playing on his AAU Friends of Hoop team, and then he will set his sights on next year's Falcon squad.
"Our goal was to win a conference championship this year, and we succeeded," he said. "Now we want to build off that for next year. We want another conference title and hopefully a state run."
After that comes college, and he is looking at some Division 2 schools in the Midwest at this point. Since his siblings all played college ball, Stephen is once again hoping to follow in the footsteps of his illustrious family.
Whitnall's Stephen Pelkofer has garnered his share of honors in this school year, including a spot on the 2010-11 All-Suburban basketball team.
BASKETBALL: He was also named the Player of the Year in the Woodland Conference Black Division and was first-team all-division.
FOOTBALL: He earned several honors, including high honorable mention on the NOW All-Suburban squad, after setting a school receiving record in his first season of organized football since sixth grade.
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