Ozark grad Quinn Nelson agrees some people might call Bolivar boring. But he likes it that way, as a Southwest Baptist hoopster looking to maximize his four years as a Bearcat.
“I’m not throwing shade or anything, but there’s not a ton to do here,” Nelson said last week after he traveled across town to watch his alma mater battle Bolivar. “Obviously, I’m not from here. But when you’re an athlete, you’re in the gym a lot and when you’re not in the gym, you’re tired and just want to hang out. It has positive elements. It makes you focus on getting in the gym a lot and getting better.
“I’m pretty intertwined at SBU. I feel at home on campus. Also, I’ve also found a good church home in Bolivar. I like going there and I like the people.”
Nelson indeed appears in an ideal place well-suited for him. The sophomore shooting guard has been starting for SBU (10-3) since the start of his freshman season. Already in his career, he has made 43 starts.
Last season, Nelson’s numbers included a 9.2 scoring average and 43 percent 3-point shooting (56-of-129).
He’s averaging 11.6 points a game this season, while shooting 44 percent from 3-point land (49-of-106). His norm of 29.5 minutes of playing time tops the Bearcats.
SBU is on the road at Missouri S&T and Maryville this week, before beginning next week by hosting Drury.
“I really like our group of guys. I think we’re headed in the right direction,” Nelson said, noting SBU’s recent upset of NCAA D-II No. 12 Southern Indiana. “I’m close with the coaches and they believe in me. Putting me in the starting lineup showed their faith in me.
“Everything is increasing a little more for me. I was learning the ropes last year and seeing how fast everything is. Now I’m more accustomed to it and finding my way more. But I think people look to me more than they did my freshman year. They know I know how the system works. I’ve seen all the hard work I put in and what it equals out to. That’s assuring to me, that the work I’m putting in means something.”
The Bearcats operate out of a similar motion offense that Ozark coach Mark Schweitzer has employed in his seven seasons coaching the Tigers. That’s not the only reason Nelson says Schweitzer prepared him well for college ball.
“I’ve been saying this recently, that he was hard on me in a good way. He believed in me so much, more than I believed in myself,” Nelson said. “He was able to grow my confidence in myself and make me produce more than I thought I could. I’m forever thankful for that.
“Whenever I’m on break, I try to swing by a practice or a game to see what’s going on with him. I try to annoy him so I can get in the gym and shoot on the gun a little bit,” he added. “That will never change. Whether it’s coach Schweitzer, or (assistants) Ethan Garret and Johnathan Felton, I’m always asking them when I’m back, ‘Can you let me in the gym?’
“At SBU, you get unlimited access to the gym. That’s really nice.”
Nelson takes advantage of the open-door policy as often as he can. He estimates he’s at SBU's Meyer Wellness and Sports Center for team practices and games or working out on his own 25 hours a week.
The process has helped Nelson avoid being labeled a stationary shooter. He has 40 rebounds, or an average of 3.1 a night, to go along with 36 assists, 18 steals and five blocked shots.
“I think I’m a lot better athlete than I was in high school,” he said. “I look back on myself in high school (on film) and it doesn’t look like I was going too fast. I look at our games and think, ‘Dang, I’m going a lot faster.’ I think I’m stronger and a better athlete overall. We have a weight program and we lift throughout the season. We’re stretching and lifting all the time. That will do it to you.”