Without question, Josh Nickelberry enjoyed what undoubtedly was a coming-out-party in this, his freshman season of major high school basketball.
For starters, Nickelberry was the catalyst of a Northwood Temple Academy team that erased the memory of last year’s 13-16 finish by ending the year with an 18-9 mark that was highlighted by a NCISAA Carolina Christian regular season title.
As if that wasn’t enough to draw rave reviews from Northwood coach Chris Lattimer and his staff, Nickelberry was the Eagles’ second-leading scorer, averaging better than 15 points per game.
Add to the fact that his attractive size — 6-foot-4 — for a newcomer, coupled with his keen ability to inspire those alongside him to flourish, and it’s no wonder letters of interest from a slew of colleges arrived at Nickelberry’s residence quicker than he managed to fill up the stat sheet.
According to Nickelberry’s father, Gerald Nickelberry, his son has fielded letters from a number of major Division 1 schools, a list that includes the University of North Carolina, Wake Forest, North Carolina State, Virginia Commonwealth, Oregon, Maryland, Xavier, College of Charleston, Wake Forest, Clemson, Georgetown, Howard University, and North Carolina-Charlotte.
In addition, Gerald Nickelberry — a former Memphis Melrose football standout — said his son has been extended unofficial visits to UNC, Georgetown, NC State, Maryland, VCU, Howard, and that an unofficial visit to Xavier is currently in the works. Josh Nickelberry has taken part in an unofficial visit to Wake Forest.
In assessing his son’s overall display in his second full season as a starter, Gerald Nickelberry said things couldn’t have turned out better for Josh Nickelberry who, prior to the season, was considered North Carolina’s No. 1 shooting guard for the Class of 2019.
To Josh Nickelberry’s credit, he was as good as advertised, thus making a favorable impression on a laundry list of recruiters.
“Joshua is a much more mature player this year with regards to basketball IQ, shot selection and a feel for the game,” Gerald Nickelberry told longtime journalist Andre Johnson during a recent interview. “ At 14, he already has the poise and feel for the game that guys much older than he possess. Joshua is also a greatly improved defender. This was a point of emphasis in the offseason and in our daily preparation. He is the team leader in deflections and amongst the leaders in steals. As some prominent scouts in the region say when they see him play, ‘Joshua simply has the it factor.’”
In a nutshell, as Josh Nickelberry goes, so goes Northwood. At least, that apparently was the case this season.
In leading Northwood in scorer, Josh registered more than 400 points, coupled with an ALL NCISAA Carolina Christian Conference selection for a second straight year — the youngest player to ever accomplish such a feat.
In addition, he was amongst the team leaders in minutes played, having generated approximately 29 minutes per contest.
As for drawing the attention of an assortment of major schools, Josh Nickelberry hinted that now is not the time to become complacent, considering there is so much basketball left to play, let alone so much progress to be made.
“It is fun,” Josh Nickelberry said of the early hoopla surrounding his recruiting process. “But I also know that I have to keep working hard and improving every day. I have enjoyed the schools that I have visited. I also greatly appreciate getting the opportunity to meet members of the coaching staffs, including the head coaches. I feel blessed to have visited (those schools) this early in my high school career, which has motivated me even more. But I also keep it in perspective and don’t let any of it go to my head. I have good people around me who help me with that as well. We always talk about staying in the moment and staying hungry and humble.”
Amongst the reasons is that what already is a remarkable list of major colleges inquiring about Josh Nickelberry figures to certainly become a longer one in the foreseeable future.
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Andre Johnson is a senior writer for MemphiSport. A 2000 graduate of the University of Memphis School of Journalism, Johnson covers the NBA Southwest Division from Dallas, Texas. To reach Johnson, send an email to email@example.com. Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist.