Zane Nelson earns Player of the Year honor

Published 9:30 am Saturday, March 14, 2020

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By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Managing Editor

Going into his senior year at Oak Mountain High School, Zane Nelson decided to give up on playing football for the Eagles and focus on helping the basketball team take the next step.

Seven months into the school year, Nelson more than accomplished that goal. After Oak Mountain’s season ended short of the Sweet 16 the season before, Nelson decided to focus on improving his game.

“After the Thompson game last year, I talked with my family about focusing on basketball more,” he said. “Through the summer, I worked hard on basketball and it helped me a ton to improve my skill set and get faster and bigger.”

Now, the senior has completed a run he’ll never forget.

Going from 8.8 points and 4.2 rebounds per game to 16.2 points per game and 5.1 rebounds per game, Nelson drastically improved his game. But more impressively, his leadership grew.

It grew so much, that he was able to combined that with his fire and passion for the sport to lead a team with three sophomores and one junior in the starting lineup to Oak Mountain’s first Final Four appearance in school history.

“He had the best senior year of any kid I’ve ever coached,” Head coach Chris Love said. “People will be missing out if they don’t get on him. He’s a winner. I’d go to war with him any time.”

With his effort, Nelson has been named the 2019-20 Shelby County Player of the Year. It was a sign Love saw coming before the season.

“Zane has become a more consistent shooter and leader, as well as a ball handler,” Love said ahead of the season. “He’s loud and borders on obnoxious, but I love that about him. He’ll tell you he’s going to win and then does it. He’ll help hold this team accountable.”

An award that saw him beat out players like Michael Jones at Montevallo, Ryshod Keith at Vincent, Daunte Cave at Helena and Hayden Lamey at Briarwood, he separated himself not only because of his talent or his improvement on the court, but because of his leadership and the legacy he left behind.

Capable of going on runs of scoring at will at the rim or from beyond the arc, he was also key defensively with 3.1 steals per game and added 2.8 assists to his stat line.

But more importantly, he helped change the standard of the program. When future teams and seniors look back at how this season went, they’ll look to Nelson’s example of leadership as the only senior in the starting lineup.

While the rest of the team, minus Trey Sullivan and Luke Love who both helped play a leadership role in limited time on the floor, has a chance to continue to help the program move forward, Nelson left the legacy of showing it’s possible.

“It was a great senior year,” Nelson said. “I’m unsatisfied right now, but I wanted to help them build for the future. I’m glad I could play a part in that.”