Toast of the Coast

Conway’s Nichols proves he belongs, adds Toast of the Coast honor to growing acclaim

Conway's Jimmy Nichols snatches a rebound from Socastee’s Jason Cudd during one of their two meeting this past season.
Conway's Jimmy Nichols snatches a rebound from Socastee’s Jason Cudd during one of their two meeting this past season. jlee@thesunnews

As he walked off the Conway High gym floor in February, Jimmy Nichols did not sulk as a result of what did not happen.

Instead, he thought about what was, and the potential for greater.

Heck, following the strides the Tigers’ hoop standout made between his sophomore and junior seasons, why shouldn’t he be greatly optimistic?

This past season, Nichols averaged a double-double, scoring 15 points while bringing in 10 rebounds per game. For his work, the state basketball coaches voted him a Class 5A all-state performer.

According to Conway basketball coach Michael Hopkins, much of that had to do with him finally feeling as if he belonged.

“Last year, it was kind of a transition process from him, feeling his way through things after playing junior varsity,” he said. “This past year, Jimmy finally felt like he belonged … he finally felt like he can be the man, that he would not be denied.”

Much like the many rebounds he hauled down this past season, there’s another notion the Conway big man can get used to.

Following a year in which his consistency was unmatched by anyone else on the Grand Strand, Nichols is The Sun News’ Toast of the Coast boys basketball Player of the Year.

(Winning a playoff game) is something we haven’t done in a while. Wearing the green and gold, it’s something I love doing. This year, we made the playoffs and everyone was happy. Next year, we hope they can be happy for us actually winning a playoff game.

Conway forward Jimmy Nichols

“(Accolades and honors) go back to practice, all those games over the summer playing in camps and with my (Conway) teammates,” he said. “It also helped getting taller. But most of all, I shot better and was allowed to move around and do a little more.”

Though primarily a post player with his back to the basket, Nichols at times offered glimpses of the many skills he possesses. Already deadly within a few feet of the basket, his accuracy on mid-range shots and beyond the arc improved greatly this season — to the point where the Conway star said Hopkins asked him to limit such attempts.

“It was mainly him wanting me to continue to get better at my position, and that those things will come later,” he said. “Coach’s big thing was he didn’t want me to do dumb things. His hope was for me to get smarter.

“Playing for Coach Hopkins is cool. You know, he’s coached at the college level and has coached for a long time … he knows a lot about the game. I’m just trying to soak in as much of it as I can.”

Also helpful is having teammates with whom he has played since middle school.

“It’s always been fun,” Nichols said. “We basically know what the other is going to do a lot of the time. Some of those things can’t really be taught, they just come through being familiar with them and what they like to do in certain situations.”

As he prepares to step into his senior year at Conway, Nichols currently has one offer to his name from Longwood University. Though it has yet to translate into more offers, plenty of other schools have spent time sniffing around the school in an effort to gauge the Tiger standout’s interest.

Earning his way onto a college roster is certainly one of Nichols’ goals left for him to check off. Several others remain, however, among them reaching the 1,000 points and 500 rebounds for his career, earning an all-state nod for the second straight year along with a bid to the annual North-South all-star game in Lexington.

The individual accolades certainly would be sweet, Nichols said, though none would satisfy him as much as getting the monkey off of the Conway boys hoops’ program by winning its first playoff game in decades.

“(Winning a playoff game) is something we haven’t done in a while,” he said. “Wearing the green and gold, it’s something I love doing. This year, we made the playoffs and everyone was happy. Next year, we hope they can be happy for us actually winning a playoff game.”

Joe L. Hughes II: 843-444-1702, @JoeLHughesII

Editor’s note

This is the third installment in a three-day series honoring the top high school athletes from winter sports along the Grand Strand.

Toast of the Coast boys basketball team

First team

Jimmy Nichols

School: Conway

Class: Junior

Notable: Led the Tigers in scoring and rebounding with 15 points and 10 rebounds per game, respectively. Was key in them returning to the playoffs after a brief absence.

Justin Busby

School: Christian Academy of Myrtle Beach

Class: Senior

Notable: Key in leading the Saints to finishing as runner-up in SCISA’s Class 2A ranks, Busby led them in scoring with 16.2 points per game. He also averaged 3.6 rebounds and 3.8 assists per contest.

Jason Cudd

School: Socastee

Class: Senior

Notable: Doing his part to lead the Braves to their first playoff appearance in three seasons, the 7-foot-1 South Carolina signee led the team with 18.7 points and 7.6 rebounds per game.

Bryce Schneider

School: Christian Academy of Myrtle Beach

Class: Senior

Notable: Despite missing part of the season due to injury, the Richmond signee was key for the Saints in their deep run through the playoffs. He averaged 14.8 points per game, along with a team-high 7.3 rebounds. Schneider also had 4.4 assists per contest.

Robert Swanson

School: Myrtle Beach

Class: Junior

Notable: Averaging nearly 16 points per game, the Seahawks sharpshooter made just shy of 50 percent of his shots attempted. He also knocked down 41 percent of his 3-pointers.

Second team

Travis Walters

School: Loris

Class: Junior

Notable: Scored just shy of 10 points per game, but where the Class 3A all-state performer excelled was on the boards. This past season, he brought down 11.7 rebounds per game.

Jeremiah Greene

School: Carvers Bay

Class: Senior

Notable: The lone senior on this season’s group of Bears, he scored 10 points per game. He was about as automatic as they came from 3-point range, shooting better than 50 percent from beyond the arc.

Jawan Bryant

School: Waccamaw

Class: Senior

Notable: The Warriors’ senior captain scored 12 points per game to go along with 7 rebounds, 3 blocks and 2 steals en route to earning All-Region VI-3A honors.

Darius McGirt

School: Georgetown

Class: Junior

Notable: A renowned leaper, he scored 12.4 points and 5.1 rebounds per game this past season, in addition to six double-doubles.

Michael Green

School: Christian Academy

Class: Sophomore

Notable: Played a key role in Saints advancing to SCISA Class 2A title game. Had 14.3 points per game to go along with just shy of 3 rebounds and 5 assists.

Coach of the Year

Darren Gore and Colin Stevens

School: Christian Academy of Myrtle Beach

Notable: One toward the end of his coaching career and the other hitting full steam, the pair helped guide the Saints to a 20-12 overall record, in addition to a SCISA Region III-2A title and an appearance in the SCISA Class 2A final. The season marked Stevens’ first year on the job, while bringing longtime coach Gore’s tenure to an end. He finishes his time with Christian Academy with a 199-81 record, along with five SCISA state championships.

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