By Mike Beas
Haley Nichols’ team-first attitude helped turn around Avon program
High school basketball players who average a double-double tend to be about as common as snow drifts in Florida.
Avon’s Haley Nichols didn’t accomplish this feat during the 2019-20 season, but the 6-foot senior center was darned close.
Through the Orioles’ first 23 games, Nichols’ per-game norms were 14.6 points and 9.4 rebounds. Add to it the two assists she averaged and how she stepped outside to make 16 of her shots from behind the 3-point stripe, and, well, you get the point.
Over 1,000 points, as it turns out.
Nichols became the sixth Avon girls basketball player to reach the milestone when she scored 15 points in a 65-58 overtime loss to Danville at the Hendricks County Tournament.
“You look at Haley and she’s just so physically imposing compared to most high school players,” said Avon coach Corie West, a former New Castle guard and a member of the 2007 Indiana All-Star team. “Haley is just one of those kids who has been around basketball her whole life, and is a versatile player.
“She’s just kind of a match-up nightmare for most of our opponents. Haley is an incredible passer, and there are times she’s almost too unselfish. She’s not a showboat. She just puts her head down and goes to work.”
It’s the way Nichols is wired, and for good reason.
Prior to her sophomore season, the Avon program had run off nine consecutive losing seasons under the direction of four different head coaches. If a mark of 63-145 (.303) over that span of time wasn’t enough to motivate a player, nothing was.
“Basically, it’s about whatever it takes to win and to help our team. I think I’ve always been a team player and not the person who tries to stand out,” said Nichols, an Orioles’ starter since midway through the 2016-17 season. “Starting my freshman year, I didn’t even know about trying to get to 1,000 points. It just sort of happened.”
Nichols, who carries a 3.64 grade-point average, will attend the University of Tennessee at Martin where she will major in biology and play for the Skyhawks’ women’s basketball program. The school more commonly referred to as UT Martin is located in the northwest corner of the state, and its sports teams compete in the Ohio Valley Conference.
Avon lost to Brownsburg in the sectional final 50-38 Feb. 8, ending the Orioles’ season, but Nichols has one more season to compete before she graduates.
The senior also excels in track and field having made it to the state finals at Indiana University as a shot put and discus specialist the past three years. She looks to make it a fourth this spring when she participates in the sport for the final time.
After that, Nichols’ athletic efforts will center around basketball.
“I have a great supporting cast around me: my teammates, my coaches, my family,” said Nichols when asked to summarize her Avon hoops career. “Basketball is so much more than an individual thing. Stats are great, but it all comes down to being part of a team.”