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GWINNETT GRADS: Nimley playing big for Charleston Southern

Charleston Southern's men's basketball team has acquitted itself well against a tough schedule this season, much like its point guard.

Collins Hill grad Saah Nimley, overlooked by bigger programs because of his height, has played well for Buccaneers, regardless of competition level. But the sophomore has stood out in some of the more difficult matchups, proving his talent to those programs.

Charleston Southern came up short in road losses to Arizona, Alabama, Charlotte and Wichita State, but stayed close with all of them. The Buccaneers were within striking distance against the nation's recent No. 1 team, Arizona, late before falling, 82-73.

"I still think we should have won at least one of them," Nimley said.

Nimley had 11 points, eight rebounds and seven assists at Arizona, scored 20 vs. Charlotte, had 21 points and seven boards vs. Wichita State and scored 10 vs. Alabama.

The 5-foot-8 guard feels like he is much improved from his freshman season, when he earned Big South Conference All-Freshman and College Insider Mid-Major Freshman All-American honors.

"My game is similar (to high school), but I'm a smarter player, a smarter point guard," Nimley said. "I know the college game better. I know what spots to be in. I know the offense like the back of my hand. ... Everybody's good now. In high school, some people were good. But now everybody playing was the best player on their high school team. I like it. Competing against good people is fun."

Nimley averages 14.4 points, 5.7 assists and 4.3 rebounds for the Buccaneers, who are 9-6 overall but 4-0 in the Big South. He is a fierce rebounder for his size, something that doesn't surprise people who saw him in high school. He has led CSU in rebounding four times this season, including 11 in Wednesday night's win over UNC-Asheville.

Charleston Southern, a popular preseason pick to win the Big South, hopes to keep that momentum going through conference play. The Buccaneers were 19-12 last season and lost in the conference tournament semifinals, but they returned 11 of 12 players off that team.

That experience leads to high goals, such as conference titles and an NCAA Tournament berth.

"We're off to a good start (in conference) and we're playing some pretty good basketball," Collins Hill's all-time leading scorer said. "I think this is our year."

BASKETBALL

Fast break

Shane Smith scored 18 points last weekend as the U.S. Military Academy Prep School team upset No. 7-ranked Hostos Community College, 70-56. ... Collins Hill grad Taylor Johnson scored 15 in the Reinhardt women's 78-61 win over Montreat last Saturday. The 6-2 junior averages 13 points and a team-best 7.8 rebounds. ... Mill Creek's Tia Williams had 14 points, five steals and five assists in Limestone College's win over Erksine.

Gwinnett Grads is a column that runs on Saturdays spotlighting achievements of past Gwinnett standouts. Coaches and parents are urged to send suggestions via email to will.hammock@gwinnettdailypost.com.