GENEVA – Perusing the Geneva boys basketball freshman roster often leads to a double-take.
A set of triplets amid a quartet of Navigatos is not easily digestable at first blush.
Vikings varsity standout Nate Navigato’s triplet younger brothers – Cole, Devin and Dominic – are joined by the boys’ cousin, Blake Navigato, as members of the Vikings’ freshman squad this winter.
“I tell them it’s easy just to yell out ‘Navigato,’ and somebody’s going to do what I need,” Geneva freshman coach Mike Kelly said. “Somebody will respond. Or if one of them gets me mad I’ll just yell ‘Navigato!’ and maybe I’ll catch somebody else.”
The reservoir of all-in-the-family quirks run deep, but Kelly notes that the quadruple-barrel Navigato action in the freshman program is “more than a novelty.” Inevitable comparisons to Nate – a 6-foot-7 junior forward with Division I scholarship offers – are premature and perhaps unfair, but it’s already clear that the younger Navigatos have game, too.
All three triplets are starters on Geneva’s freshman ‘A’ team, and they each are carving out their own identities.
Cole is the team’s point guard and top ball-handler. Devin is a “jack of all trades,” Kelly said, and a quality defender. At 6-2, Dominic is the tallest of the three so far and most similar to Nate from a skill-set standpoint – a post player who also has the shooting touch to thrive on the perimeter.
While this is the brothers’ first year suiting up together for high school basketball, they grew up playing feeder and Geneva Middle School North basketball alongside one another. Most of their court time, though, has come in the backyard.
“It’s always been about basketball,” Devin said. “Sometimes we’ll be just watching a movie, and then there will probably be something about basketball. We always dribble the basketball around the house, and outside a lot.”
The family’s basketball lineage extends well beyond Nate; the boys’ grandfather and their father, Dan, both were successful players in their day.
Dan Navigato said he was initially concerned about the pressure the boys might feel to live up Nate’s big reputation but thinks they’ve handled that dynamic “really well” while helping lead the freshman team, which is unbeaten so far in conference play. He said this season has been especially exciting because the brothers didn’t play at the same time as much in the past.
“Now they’re getting to do that a lot,” Dan Navigato said. “It’s obviously fun as a parent to watch but I think they’re enjoying it, too. There’s really not a competition factor because they really play three different positions, so that works out nice.”
The brothers also have played baseball in the past but are leaning toward giving it up to focus on AAU basketball with Mercury Elite, following their big brother’s path. Dominic said he might go out for the golf team next year while, unlike the triplets, Blake Navigato also plays football.
The triplets will turn 15 a week from today. While they are not identical, Blake said his cousins’ family ties are evident when it comes to their driven, workmanlike approach to basketball.
“They don’t get mad if [a call goes against them],” said Blake, a point guard for Geneva’s freshman ‘B’ team. “They’ll get back on ‘D.’ They don’t fight over the ball, and when they get the ball, they know what to do with it. They don’t argue with the coach. They’re pretty similar.”
Kelly said it’s beneficial for the triplets to play together given their innate chemistry, but there are no guarantees they won’t be split up as their careers unfold. Dominic said “it’d be awesome” for one or more of them to have a chance to play with Nate on varsity before Nate’s career is through, but for now, the brothers are content to learn from their big brother through observation and demonstrations.
“His mentality is just to do whatever to win,” Devin said. “He will do anything to make himself better, work on his weaknesses, and it gets to the point where you can’t tell what his weaknesses are.”
In addition to Nate, the triplets have another basketball-playing sibling in little sister Cassidy, a seventh-grader. By the time she hits high school, the already formidable Navigato name figures to resonate even more deeply around Geneva’s gymnasium, and beyond.
Already, Kelly reports plenty of head-shaking when opposing coaches and official scorers eyeball Geneva’s scorebook before freshman games tip off.
“Anyone that’s familiar with basketball in the Fox Valley sees that name and obviously knows Nate, so they’re amazed that we have three more coming,” Kelly said. “And maybe that instills a little fear in their heart, knowing the success Nate’s had.”