By Jonah Bronstein
NIAGARA FALLS —
Anthony Nelson has 196 followers on Twitter. His coach wishes he had a few more on the Niagara men’s basketball team.
Having lost seven of eight games for just the second time in his 12 years at Niagara, coach Joe Mihalich is concerned that his roster of mostly freshmen and sophomores is not responding to the leadership being provided by his lone senior.
“If I’m disappointed in anything other than lack of victories,” Mihalich said after Wednesday’s home loss to Quinnipiac put the Purple Eagles at 3-9 on the year, “it’s that these freshman aren’t looking and saying wait a minute, we have a great leader here. We need to act like him, be more like him.”
Nelson, a fourth year starter, has raised his scoring average from 9.9 to 16.2 this season, and is averaging 2.6 steals. But as a natural point guard being asked to carry a greater scoring burden this year, he’s averaging a career-low 4.6 assists and a career-high 4.4 turnovers.
“He’s struggling, more emotionally than anything else,” Mihalich said. “He’s trying so hard and he’s so far ahead of these other guys.”
Mihalich said Nelson is doing his best to be a strong, vocal leader in practices and games, but with no other seniors and just one junior, forward Kashief Edwards, on the team, he’s finding himself outnumbered.
“There’s too many of them,” Mihalich said. “And they’re not responding like they should. I don’t know what button we need to push to get them to realize we have a gem here in Anthony Nelson and they’re just not following like they need to follow. I don’t know if they don’t know how to follow, or if they don’t realize what they should be doing. But that’s a battle for us.”
Part of the problem is that one of the freshman is unable to follow Nelson while limping around in a walking boot. Antoine Mason averaged 16.7 points in the season’s first three games while Nelson sat out with a face injury. A stress fracture in his foot has kept Mason out of the nine games Nelson has played in.
Niagara plays Drexel (8-2) tonight in Philadelphia, then finishes the non-conference portion of its schedule Thursday at Maryland-Baltimore County (0-12).