By Ray Hamill — Thomas Nelson announced on Wednesday that he is taking his talents to Flagler College in Florida, ending weeks of speculation on where he would play next.
Many local fans who have watched his basketball career unfold over the past few years were hoping the College of the Redwoods standout would stay in the area and play at Humboldt State, but Nelson choose Flagler after the Division-II program made a big push to recruit him.
“I just really liked their coach and I really liked the way they talked to me from the first day,” said Nelson, who was wanted by dozens of schools all across the nation after his all-state season at CR. “I felt they really wanted me, and I wanted to be somewhere I was appreciated.”
The Lions, who offered the former Arcata High player a $34,000 annual scholarship, are delighted to get the player they coveted and have been in regular touch with him throughout the process, texting him almost daily, he said.
“I think he’s going to be a terrific player for us,” Flagler head coach Chad Warner said. “There are a lot of things I like about him. We love his size and how efficient he was at scoring with the basketball.
“I felt watching film on him that he played with an efficient energy that sort of jumped out at me.
“I just think he’s a winner.”
Nelson led the way on the Corsairs’ Golden Valley Conference championship run this past winter, scoring 28.5 points a game on 54.6 percent shooting, and pulling down 7.8 boards a game, all three conference highs.
For his efforts he was named first-team all-state.
He is the second CR player to move on to a four-year program in the past month, joining teammate AJ Stubbs who will play at Cal State Maritime.
“This is a big day for the program. and a big day for Tom and a big day for the community,” CR head coach Ryan Bisio said.
The Redwoods coach says he has been receiving three or four calls a day from programs all over the country interested in Nelson, and that he likes the fit of Flagler.
“I love the way they recruited him,” Bisio said. “They really recruited the person.”
Warner says he knew from early in the process that Nelson was exactly the type of player they wanted to bring on board.
“Coach Bisio had nothing but wonderful things to say about him,” Warner said. “It was clear to me from the first time I talked to coach Bisio that Thomas absolutely fits the type of player we’re looking for.
“He’s got grit, he loves the game, and he loves to compete.”
Warner says he expects Nelson to play a “major role” for his team, which was 14-15 this past winter and had just one senior on the roster.
Nelson himself is confident he can have an immediate impact with the Lions, who play an up-tempo style similar to CR.
“I’m pretty sure I can make the team better,” he said.
The whole recruiting process has been different this year because of the COVID-19 restrictions, but Nelson says he has been doing his best to stay in shape and continue to work on his game throughout.
He added that beating Santa Rosa, his former team, was one of the special memories he’ll take from his time at CR, as well as all the wins during their championship season, and playing in front of a packed crowd at every home game.
“It was amazing,” he said of the home support.