HSU coach believes Nelson has the talent and maturity to succeed with the Jacks

Ray Hamill/ – Thomas Nelson in action for CR last year.

By Ray Hamill — Humboldt State men’s basketball head coach Tae Norwood says the addition of Thomas Nelson has nothing to do with the fact he’s a local star.

Nelson, an Arcata High graduate who was an all-state selection while playing at College of the Redwoods, will join the team next month after transferring from Flagler College in Florida.

And Norwood believes he has the talent and maturity to succeed with the Lumberjacks.

“He turned down some scholarships to stay here. He bet on himself. He doubled down,” Norwood said. “And obviously he’s got some talent and he’s going to get a legitimate shot to play every day.”

The fact that he’s a local star didn’t come into the decision.

“That had zero impact in us taking him,” Norwood said. “I want guys I like, and I don’t want guys just because they’re local. You’ve got to be a good fit.

“I won’t take a local guy unless he can be a part of the rotation for us, and obviously that speaks of what I think of him.”

Norwood was hired in the spring of 2020 and says he reached out to Nelson’s family at the time, but the CR graduate had already accepted a scholarship to play at Flagler in Florida, with HSU missing the chance to recruit him in the midst of the coaching transition.

Nelson reached the NCAA Division-II Final Four with Flagler, but played limited minutes on a deep and talented roster, before the team opted to move on from him after the season.

The former Tiger and Corsair then jumped at the opportunity to return home to join the Jacks, working out for Norwood recently before being offered a spot.

Norwood says in addition to his obvious talent, he liked Nelson’s maturity.

“He was honest about his experience and about how he’s grown and matured from his time (at Flagler),” Norwood said, adding that “nothing’s given and you’ve got to earn everything here.”

The new HSU head coach has been busy on the recruiting trail lately, adding several new players this offseason.

Nelson is one of eight or nine expected newcomers who will join a group of seven returning players, and the roster will have plenty of size.

“We’ll be big,” the coach said. “We’ll be big at guard, and we’ll be big at the big spots. We have three or four guys that are over 6-9 and one who’s 6-11.”

And while the coach admits nothing is guaranteed and the team still needs to come together, he says he’s excited about the possibilities and the type of student athletes he has been able to bring on board.

“The most success I’ve ever had is when my best players were my best people, and I’m excited about this class,” he said. “We have a lot of new guys and hopefully they gel.”

Norwood also praised the support he has received from the HSU administration and says he’s looking forward to seeing fans back in the stands at Lumberjack Arena.

“The community and administration have been so supportive of me and trying to make sure we get everything we need to have a really good athletic program,” he said. 

“I think we’ve got a chance to do some really, really good things.”

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