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Kansas State rallies late to put away Iowa State -3/1/2015, 9:33 AM

No. 8 Kansas holds on to defeat Texas, 69-64 -3/1/2015, 9:31 AM

Wichita State captures MVC crown by beating Northern Iowa -3/1/2015, 9:30 AM

Ellis' Younger cruises through Friday at 3-2-1A -3/1/2015, 9:39 AM

Hays High's Deterding second in 4A -3/1/2015, 9:58 AM

Norton wins title with backside points -3/1/2015, 9:36 AM

Hoxie's Porsch repeats in 3-2-1A -3/1/2015, 9:43 AM

FHSU splits at Northeastern State -3/1/2015, 9:41 AM

HHS girls win on senior night -3/1/2015, 9:40 AM

HHS boys roll by Great Bend -3/1/2015, 9:39 AM

Class 3-2-1A State Wrestling finals results -2/28/2015, 9:37 AM

Tigers fall, need win to host first round -2/27/2015, 10:20 AM

Tiger women, MIAA champs, hang on -2/27/2015, 10:29 AM

Monarchs survive on senior night -2/27/2015, 12:17 PM

With KU back in control, Jayhawks prepare for 'high drama' -2/27/2015, 10:19 AM

Nino Williams takes long road to success at Kansas State -2/27/2015, 10:18 AM

Sub-state basketball pairings -2/26/2015, 10:37 AM

3-2-1A wrestling -- Younger part of youth movement for Railers -2/26/2015, 10:48 AM

Big 12 reprimands K-State after court-storming -2/26/2015, 10:53 AM

Hays High's top four headed to Salina -2/26/2015, 10:36 AM

3-2-1A wrestling -- HDN area state qualifiers -2/26/2015, 10:48 AM

3-2-1A wrestling -- Porsch seeks a repeat in state finale -2/26/2015, 10:49 AM

3-2-1A wrestling -- Freshman Hutchinson leads young group of Redmen -2/26/2015, 10:49 AM

3-2-1A wrestling -- Norton steps up again to have shot at 3-2-1A state crown -2/26/2015, 10:50 AM

Shockers fight past Indiana State, set up big Saturday -2/26/2015, 10:27 AM

Rhoades back at state -- this time in 4A -2/26/2015, 10:36 AM

TMP survives Plainville -2/25/2015, 11:26 AM

K-State issues apology -2/25/2015, 10:22 AM

HHS swept at Dodge -2/25/2015, 10:22 AM

Tuesday's area prep basketball boxscores -2/25/2015, 10:21 AM

Royals still hoping for Starling to break out -2/24/2015, 10:22 AM

Penske revels in Logano's victory at Daytona 500 -2/24/2015, 10:22 AM

Wildcat's win throws a roadblock at Jayhawks -2/24/2015, 10:22 AM

KBCA prep basketball rankings, Feb. 23 -2/24/2015, 10:22 AM

Wildcats get it done -2/24/2015, 10:22 AM

No-name Hahn wins Northern Trust Open -2/23/2015, 10:24 AM

FHSU softball splits on Sunday in Minnesota -2/23/2015, 10:15 AM

Logano wins first Daytona 500 -2/23/2015, 10:15 AM

Lutz: VanVleet has another day to remember -2/23/2015, 10:14 AM

VanVleet takes Wichita State's assists title in win -2/23/2015, 10:14 AM

'Cats seek confidence before game with KU -2/23/2015, 10:14 AM

Perry Ellis, No. 8 Kansas rebound from loss, beat TCU -2/22/2015, 12:47 PM

Baylor drills K-State -2/22/2015, 12:48 PM

Monarch girls run away from Stockton -2/22/2015, 12:38 PM

TMP wins physical game at Stockton -2/22/2015, 12:39 PM

Mathews all-state for HHS -2/22/2015, 12:48 PM

HHS wins at Garden, jumps back into WAC race -2/22/2015, 12:41 PM

Wrestling roundup -- Hays High sends four to 4A state -2/22/2015, 8:19 PM

Victoria puts together complete game in win at Ness City -2/22/2015, 12:40 PM

HHS girls fall down early, lose at Garden -2/22/2015, 12:39 PM

Earnhardt Jr. makes Duel history, Patrick qualifies -2/20/2015, 10:19 AM

HHS sends relays to state -2/20/2015, 10:19 AM

Tiger baseball takes two from UCM -2/20/2015, 10:19 AM

Gene Stephenson says he's filed his own appeal -2/19/2015, 10:13 AM

TCU takes out K-State -2/19/2015, 10:13 AM

Bohuslavsky keys win for Tiger women -2/19/2015, 10:59 AM

Tiger men rally for MIAA win -2/19/2015, 10:13 AM

Tiger women No. 1 in Central Region -2/18/2015, 5:04 PM

Tuesday's area prep basketball boxscores -2/18/2015, 11:22 AM

Barton's Hensley named Player of the Week -2/18/2015, 10:24 AM

TMP boys win, girls fall in Great Bend -2/18/2015, 10:24 AM

K-State hopes to build some momentum at TCU -2/18/2015, 10:24 AM

Two in a row for HHS girls -2/18/2015, 10:47 AM

Hot early, HHS boys get win at Abilene -2/18/2015, 10:47 AM

All is possible at Daytona -2/17/2015, 10:27 AM

WVU tops Jayhawks in wild finish -2/17/2015, 10:27 AM

Chiefs can find impact receiver in NFL draft -2/17/2015, 10:27 AM

Chargers set sights on LA, push San Diego officials for action on stadium -2/17/2015, 10:27 AM

Defense a constant for Shockers -2/17/2015, 10:26 AM

FHSU, UCM series moved to Hays -2/16/2015, 10:55 AM

KU prepares for full-court press -2/16/2015, 10:17 AM

Foster lifts Kansas State past Oklahoma on Saturday -2/16/2015, 10:16 AM

Three Tigers crowned MIAA champs -2/16/2015, 10:16 AM

Bowyer, after crash, slams qualifying format -2/16/2015, 10:16 AM

Phillipsburg girls knock off TMP at the buzzer -2/15/2015, 7:54 PM

Hays High girls snap losing skid -2/15/2015, 2:21 PM

Hays High stunned by Liberal at the buzzer -2/15/2015, 7:54 PM

Tiger women's streak halted at Pitt State -2/15/2015, 10:26 AM

Tiger softball 1-3 to start season -2/15/2015, 7:54 PM

Tiger men fall at Pitt -2/15/2015, 7:54 PM

Tigers drop to 0-2 with losses to Mines, Regis -2/15/2015, 1:10 AM

KU coach kicks off tour in Hays -2/13/2015, 11:10 AM

K-State guard Johnson laughs off hecklers at W. Virginia -2/13/2015, 10:13 AM

The Tigers' do-it-all Shaw -2/13/2015, 11:10 AM

Samac staying on court, providing big games for Tigers -2/13/2015, 11:09 AM

Wichita State baseball players see winning as antidote to distractions -2/13/2015, 10:12 AM

Royals, Herrera agree -2/13/2015, 10:12 AM

Royals purchase contract of Derek Gordon -2/13/2015, 10:12 AM

KU's Ellis near 1,000 points -2/13/2015, 10:12 AM

Hoxies' record just a matter of time? -2/12/2015, 3:26 PM

New coach, new season for FHSU softball -2/12/2015, 11:25 AM

Tigers look for better pitching in 2015 -2/12/2015, 10:14 AM

Shox roll to win -2/12/2015, 10:04 AM

Kansas State rally again falls short at W. Virginia -2/12/2015, 10:04 AM

FHSU wrestling rolls to dual win -2/12/2015, 10:04 AM

2015 Eight-Man All-Star rosters -2/11/2015, 11:54 AM

Indiana State backcourt thrives with new characters -2/11/2015, 10:24 AM

Scott City rolls over TMP -2/11/2015, 10:24 AM

Jayhawks cruise past Texas Tech -2/11/2015, 10:24 AM

Kansas State braces for Mountaineers' full-court press -2/11/2015, 10:24 AM

Sports Scores

Tuesday

Prep basketball

Boys

Atwood 76, St. Francis 65

Dighton 62, Oberlin 47

Hillsboro 50, Goodland 47

Lakeside 42, Lincoln 32

Minneapolis 68, Russell 35

Rock Hills 42, Natoma 37

Salina Central 62, Andover 58

Salina South 62, Sacred Heart 47

Sharon Springs 75, Leoti 38

St. John's Beloit-Tipton 57, Osborne 34

Sylvan-Lucas 61, Thunder Ridge 48

Girls

Dighton 44, Atwood 11

Dodge City 71, Hays High 28

Hesston 51, Goodland 18

Hoisington 60, Victoria 46

Hoxie 65, St. Francis 13

Lincoln 33, Lakeside 26

Minneapolis 47, Otis-Bison 24

Osborne 59, Wilson 34

Sharon Springs 63, Oberlin 42

Sylvan-Lucas 43, Natoma 41 (ot)

Tescott 41, Rock Hills 33

Trego 56, Leoti 27

Thunder Ridge 33, St. John's Beloit-Tipton 30

Click To View All


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SPOTLIGHT
A freshman season to remember for Tigers' Nicholson

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A freshman season to remember for Tigers' Nicholson

Published on -2/1/2013, 10:37 AM

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By CONOR NICHOLL

cnicholl@dailynews.net

In many ways, Fort Hays State University freshman point guard Craig Nicholson encapsulated his career in Wednesday's 78-71 victory against University of Central Oklahoma.

Nicholson, easily the smallest player on either team at 5-foot-8, 160 pounds, played 36 minutes and collected 15 points with a career-high 12 assists against two turnovers. The assists tied for seventh best for a single game in Tiger history. Nicholson pushed the tempo, handled the ball versus the Bronchos' press and initiated the fast break.

"We've got to put a lot on him, and he has done a tremendous job accepting it," Tiger coach Mark Johnson said.

As usual, his parents and grandmother, part of a strong family unit, sat courtside. Christi Nicholson, Craig's mother, tracked her son's statistics.

"My mom is very active, and she is always all over my stats," Nicholson said with a smile. "She does stats during the game, too. She hates it when (FHSU) gets my stats wrong. I am like, 'Mom, calm down, it's not that serious.' "

After the game, Nicholson walked out of the locker room and wrapped his grandmother in a big hug.

He, his family and Johnson talked and joked for a few minutes on the court, a scene replicated after virtually every home game.

"I trusted Coach Johnson from the first time that he talked to me," Nicholson said. "He hasn't lied to me or anything, which is good. I trust him a lot. I just like it here. It's a great town and great fans and everything, and I love my teammates."

The strong family support, Johnson's coaching and Nicholson's ability has helped produce arguably the best freshman season in Tiger annals, in recent MIAA history -- and possibly nationally this winter. Nicholson averages 13.3 points and 7.2 assists per game and is shooting 40 percent from 3-point range for the Tigers (12-6, 6-4 MIAA). On Saturday, FHSU will host Missouri Southern State University (9-9, 4-6 MIAA). Game time is 4 p.m.

"Craig is one of the best freshmen to come into this league," Johnson said. "I think stats, he might be the best in the last how many years."

He is expected to win the MIAA Freshman of the Year and ranked second nationally in assists in the latest release of Division II statistics. As well, Nicholson is on pace to set the school record for assists per game.

"I am really big on (assists) this year, because I know that I've got guys that can score around me," Nicholson said. "That's all that I really focus on. I don't really even care about the points anymore, I am just focused on the assists."

The current mark is 6.6 per contest set in Raymond Lee's freshman year of 1982-83. Nicholson has received comparisons to Tiger point guard Dominique Jones, another quick, shorter point guard who earned All-American honors two seasons ago.

"They are kind of similar and definitely by the time that Craig is a senior, he is going to be a problem," senior Lance Russell said. "He is already a problem, but he is on his way. It's crazy for him to be a freshman, he is real good."

Nicholson played at Wichita Northwest and earned Class 6A first team all-state honors last season after he averaged 20.2 points per contest. Still, Nicholson played in the shadow of Wichita Heights' standout and McDonald's All-American Perry Ellis, now at University of Kansas. Some NCAA Division I schools looked at Nicholson, but his small stature scared off many schools.

"I had a chip on my shoulder since I was there and it got me far," Nicholson said.

Then, Johnson called Nicholson. The point guard said Johnson wasn't worried about Nicholson's height. Nicholson loved Fort Hays on his visit and committed the next day. He signed in the early signing period last year.

"You can't turn a place like this down," Nicholson said.

In the preseason, Johnson said he expected Nicholson to play a key role in an uptempo offense, a different pace than usual Tiger teams. FHSU has averaged 72 possessions a game compared to 67, 71 and 69 the last three seasons. Nicholson started slowly, but gained confidence in the first conference game of the season, a home win against University of Central Missouri on Dec. 5.

"When I knew that I could play to my potential, then I knew that I just had to keep working hard and the sky is the limit for me," Nicholson said.

He finished with 22 points and seven assists. Since then, he has tallied double figures every contest, has seven games with at least eight assists and a positive assist to turnover ratio in all but one game.

"As Craig's career evolves, I don't know if his stat line is going to get much better," Johnson said. "I don't think he is going to be a guy who is going to, all of a sudden, average 22 a game. I think his stats are going to be his stats.

"I think you are going to see a little bit of a bump as his career goes along," he added. "But I think he is going to be able to do other things, be more detailed in his defensive assignments, be a better defender than he is right now, take over more of a leadership role as time goes on. From a stat point, he is playing so well, there is only so far you can go."

This winter, Nicholson has improved in his decision-making, including finding the open teammate and knowing when to push the pace. Nicholson said he gets down on himself when he doesn't play well, but has worked on shaking off a poor performance. Plus, he has changed his diet and eaten more sandwiches to keep his body fresh for playing 30-plus minutes every night.

"Pretty much being smarter and not trying to force as much stuff," Nicholson said. "I hate when I turn over the ball. When I do that, I get down on myself a lot, but I just try to focus on not trying to go so deep, because I know I am small and can't see half the time, so I've just got to take what the defense gives me."

He watches other point guards, especially University of Michigan's Trey Burke and Los Angeles Clippers' Chris Paul.

"It's just how smart they play," Nicholson said. "They just do whatever they can to make the team win, and to get the teammates involved and always looking to pass first, and if they are open, then they will shoot it. They are not selfish and making certain they are the leading scorer or anything. They just want to win.SDRq

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