SCOTCH PLAINS/FANWOOD, NJ — Nigel Nelson did all he could to prolong the Scotch Plains-Fanwood boys’ basketball’s magical, resurgent season. Even though his heroic efforts came up short, the SP-F basketball star is this week’s Yeti MMA Athlete of the Week.
In his final game as a Raider, in one of the biggest games in Scotch Plains-Fanwood basketball history, Nelson had a career night for the ages. The senior forward dropped 22 points and collected 11 rebounds in front of a packed house against Bridgewater-Raritan in the NJSIAA North 2, Group 4 Quarterfinals.
Nelson’s memorable performance was, unfortunately for SPF, not enough to lift the Raiders into the next round. But nonetheless, it will be a game and performance that many will remember for a long time. But Nelson’s Raiders probably wouldn’t have even been playing in the game, let alone earn the No. 3 seed in the prestigious tournament, if it weren’t for his extraordinary leadership on and off the court throughout the entire season.
While he averaged eight points-per-game in his third and final varsity season on a very balanced team, Nelson was a true team leader for the Raiders and a player that many looked up to. It was evident how much he meant to the program, when after the Raiders’ heartbreaking loss, many players and fans could been seen flocking to the star to say goodbye to him for one final time in a Raider uniform.
Nelson was also a main player on the 2015-16 Raiders, a team that won a mere three games and lost 21. In just one year, with his leadership, along with the three other senior’s, as a primary reason, the Raiders won 22 games and lost just six. It was only the third team in program history to win 20 or more games (2008, 2011), the highest the program has ever been seeded in the state tournament, and was regarded by many New Jersey basketball experts as one of the greatest stories of the year in the state.
While his career as a Raider may be over, Nelson, one of the best dunkers the school has ever seen, certainly delivered exceptional memories over the years. There was the time last year where he emphatically "posterized" two defenders in the same game, sending the SP-F gym into awe and frenzy. There was the last game of the 2015-16 season when he dunked three times in the second half to lead the Raiders to the victory that many consider the beginning of the team’s slogan, “The Rise.”
There was the game against Westfield this year where he recorded a double-double to lead the Raiders to a hype victory in front of a sold-out house. And of course, there was the time this week, when he went out with a bang and dropped 22 points and 11 rebounds in the state quarterfinals. Unfortunately for the Raiders, the season concluded Wednesday with the loss to Bridgewater-Raritan. And while that means Nigel Nelson won’t play another game for Scotch Plains, his performance this week won’t be forgotten anytime soon.
Each Yeti MMA Athlete of the Week honoree will be invited to submit an essay entitled, "What It Means to Be a Student-Athlete." The winning submission will receive a $1,000 TAPintoSPF-Yeti MMA scholarship in June 2017.
The Yeti MMA Athlete of the Week is sponsored by Yeti MMA and its owner, David Martin. Located at 2507 Route 22 West in Scotch Plains (next to Bowcraft), Yeti MMA offers training in a variety of disciplines: boxing, kickboxing, Brazilian jiu jitsu, Muay Thai, wrestling, and strength training. Call (908) 858-5558 and mention the TAPintoSPF - Yeti MMA Athlete of the Week and get a 15% discount on a one-year membership. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.