More than anything, Jimmy Nichols wanted to win.
The Conway star had already earned more than his share of individual honors, a scholarship to Providence College and plenty of acclaim from around the Southeast. But the one thing he set his mind to in in 2017-2018 was putting the Tigers’ dubious postseason distinction in the schools’ rearview before he ran out of a chance to play a role in ending it.
He can check that off the list, too.
Nichols led Conway out of the first round of the playoffs for the first time since 1994 and further etched his name into program history with some huge performances along the way. As a result, he’ll cap off his high school career with a second consecutive Toast of the Coast Boys Basketball Player of the Year award.
“The only goal I had to win the playoff game,” Nichols said. “So I accomplished my goal.”
Nichols averaged 18 points and 10 rebounds as a senior and was named the South Carolina Basketball Coaches Association’s Class 5A Player of the Year after earning All-State honors as a junior. He is also the lone area boy named to the Carolinas Classic All-Star roster. He capped off his three-year varsity career by scoring 1,092 career points, snagging 605 rebounds and blocking 142 shots.
Conway won more than 50 games in his three years, but it was the final ones this year that really meant something. The Tigers won not just one, but two, playoff contests before getting eliminated by Blythewood. Nichols scored 23 points against River Bluff in the opening round and then 30 against Summerville in the second.
Still, he wasn’t convinced Conway couldn’t have made it further than the third round.
“It feels like we didn’t finish what we wanted to do,” he said. “The season that we were having, it felt like we had a real chance. But it felt good to win a playoff game, and then to defend home court (against Summerville).”
All those accolades and then the relative playoff success will ensure that Nichols is perceived as one of the best Conway basketball players of all time - and surely during his lifetime.
“I’ve never been one to harp on any one individual. But he is obviously the most decorated,” Tigers coach Mike Hopkins said. “Truth is in the pudding. … He is right up there at No. 1. And maybe somebody else is 1A.”
Considering Nichols was a bit of a late bloomer to the sport will add to the legacy.
He’ll enroll at Providence this summer and will be allowed minimal trips back home while the rigors of Big East basketball and year-round college training become the norm. When he does return, however, few in Conway will likely have forgotten about all he accomplished and how he helped change the Tigers’ postseason fate.
“It’s kind of surreal. I wasn’t always good,” Nichols said. “I just started getting good my 10th-grade year. I didn’t even start playing until seventh grade. When I was playing when I was younger, I wasn’t thinking I was going to be the best. It just sort of came along like that.”
Player of the year
Notable: Class 5A Boys Player of the Year was named to the Carolinas Classic All-Star roster after leading the Tigers to the third round of the state playoffs and averaging 18 points and 10 rebounds per game.
School: Christian Academy of Myrtle Beach
Notable: Guard earned MVP honors for the Georgetown Shootout and the Region tournament after averaging 21 points, 5.5 assists and five rebounds per game.
Notable: Class 3A All-State selection helped Lions to an undefeated regular season by scoring 12 points per game while adding seven assists, five steals and two blocks per contest.
School: Green Sea Floyds
Notable: Trojans forward led the area in scoring this winter by averaging 21.3 points per game; also grabbed 10.3 rebounds per contest.
School: Myrtle Beach
Notable: Class 4A All-State pick averaged 19.3 points per game while shooting 58 percent from the floor this season. Finished with more than 1,200 career points.
Notable: Two-time Class 3A All-State selection and Region VII-3A Player of the Year averaged 18 points and 14 rebounds per game and led Lions to third round of the playoffs.
COACH OF THE YEAR
Notable: Led the Lions to an undefeated record in the regular season - the only boys or girls team in the state to do so - and into the third round of the Class 3A state playoffs for the first time in more than two and a half decades.