Nimley steps into leading role for rising Eagle program

Photo by Brandon Brigman

Photo by Brandon Brigman

This is Saah Nimley's team.

For three years, Collins Hill basketball defined itself with height. The Eagles stood tall on the shoulders of the 6-foot-10 Jeremy Olsen who returned to his home state of Utah to play college hoops this year.

Olsen took his height with him, but the Eagles' expectations went no lower.

"We expect to make it to state. If we don't make it to state it will be a big disappointment," Nimley said.

The junior is the only returning starter from last year's surprise Region

7-AAAAA tournament champions and now the Collins Hill show starts with the the 5-foot-8 point guard.

"Now he is more of an igniter of what we do," Eagles head coach Josh Grayson said. "Even last year, I think a lot of the game plan started with him having the ball."

But last year, he fed the ball to the big men, only scoring an alternate option. But Nimley still made an impact. Even at his height, he fought for rebounds and drove to the basket fearlessly.

Watching Collins Hill practice, you see a different team. Gone is the offensive sets and the zone defense. The Eagles run throughout the practice, they press and trap.

"We are more end-to-end now," Grayson said.

And that's all because of Nimley.

Short and slim, Nimley does not dominate a conversation. He speaks less with conviction and more with certainty. A good point guard, he keeps his head up and eyes forward. Even during practice he says little, other than to give instruction. Leadership is a role he embraces slyly. He treads lightly.

"I try to be more of a leader," Nimley said. "I want to prove that I can lead our team to big victories and in big games like we did last year."

He doesn't remember, but Nimley spent the first two years of his life playing in the dirt in Liberia. His mother, Harriet Davis, is a first-generation immigrant. But there is no trace of his African heritage in Nimley other than his name, which only now are people starting to pronounce correctly.

"You can't fault them," he said.

Gone now are his days spent outside unless he has a basketball in his hands.

"My mom tells me stuff that I used to do back then and how I used to act. She tells me that I was always outside playing in the dirt and I never wanted to come inside," he said. "I liked playing with dogs and stuff. It's funny, because right now I hate dogs. I really do not like dogs. I like to be inside."

He spent is summer insides playing basketball. He took two weeks to play in AAU showcases in Las Vegas and Los Angeles. He worked on his game every day. No day passed when he didn't shoot a basketball.

"He has really worked on his game," Grayson said. "He is a lot more of a complete player. It's easy to say that he is going to score more points and up his averages. But he is more complete."

Nimley does it all. He scores, passes, rebounds and plays defense. And the defense is where he grew the most. Sliding into a leading role as the returning point guard was easy. He starts with the ball. He calls the play. He must lead. But not on defense. That he learned.

"I am where it starts as a point guard," Nimley said. "I've got to start it off on defense and get our team hyped up."

The transition to complete leader is not complete. He still takes some 3s from too far off, but learns quickly and responds to criticism and coaching.

"You don't have to tell him things twice," Grayson said. "Other kids have grown because of him. The kids follow his example."

It's an example worth emulating.

"I out-work people," Nimley said. "I like that responsibility. It makes me want to elevate my game more. I am not letting down my teammates."