Jaret Nelson might have to put on a baseball shirt to remind some of his Nixa classmates that he considers himself first and foremost a baseball player.
The image he’s created this winter is that he’s a powerful post player and key cog for the soon-to-be COC champion basketball Eagles.
“Well, we wear this at school about every day,” Nelson said, while pointing to Nixa basketball pullover.
Nelson has fulfilled the pre-season projections coach Jay Osborne had for him. As far as last summer, Osborne predicted Nelson would come back strongly after a one-year hiatus from the hardwood.
Nelson is averaging 12 points a game and gives strength and explosiveness to Nixa in the paint. His highlights include a game-winning shot against Parkview at the Blue & Gold Tournament and a 17-point performance last week opposite Republic.
The All-COC First-Team seems to be set by a likely combo os Nixa’s Colin Ruffin and Kael Combs, Republic’s Drew McMillin, Ozark’s Blaine Cline, Webb City’s Nickhai Howard and Joplin’s Always Wright. Nelson could very well be worthy of a second-team selection.
“I'm excited. I feel like I've done better than my expectations for myself,” Nelson said.
Nelson’s nature, though, is that he will steer far from complacency.
“I always want to do more and get better. I'm never satisfied,” he said. “That's not just in athletics, it's a whole realm of life deal for me. My parents and the upperclassmen I have worked with in baseball instilled that in me. They’ve taught me to always try to do more and never be satisfied.”
Nelson prides himself on taking constructive criticism well from Osborne and assistant coach Brock Blansit.
“The biggest thing for me are the little things I don't do correctly in a game. I can always hear coach Osborne or coach Blansit in my ear about that,” Nelson said. “For instance, when we run ‘Shuffle,’ and we throw it inside for somebody to get a layup, I need to be crashing the boards. Sometimes, I don't do that.”
In addition to points in the paint and rebounds that Nelson supplies the Eagles, Combs notes Nelson delivers an admirable work ethic and exceptional athleticism.
“Every practice he works hard. He’s our motor guy,” Combs said. “He gets rebounds and if there’s a loose ball to dive on, he’ll dive on it.
“Jaret is a true athlete. I feel he could play any sport. He could probably play lacrosse,” Combs added. “A lot of people thought he was just a baseball player and didn’t have the skills and fundamentals to play basketball. He’s brought it and shone. From the beginning of the season to now, he’s improved a lot.”
Nelson was part of the Nixa baseball team’s COC championship season as a freshman two years ago. He would love for his junior and senior years to include COC titles for the Eagles in both basketball and baseball.
“That would be fun,” he said. “I want to set the bar high, reach it this year and top it next year.”