For some high school basketball players, 35 points, 12 rebounds, and 9 assists would be a career stat line. For others, it would be a career night. But for high school senior DeMarcus Nelson, it's just an average game.
The accolades continue to roll in for Nelson, a 6-foot-3 shooting guard from Vallejo, Cal. He is a three-time state California Player of the Year, and last season he led Vallejo High School to the semifinals of the California Division I state tournament. Then, at the Mel Goode Holiday Tournament in Yuba City, Ca., Nelson scored 95 points in three games, shattering a scoring record that had stood for over 30 years. With 2,400 career points, he has a good shot at breaking the California state scoring record his senior year. His composure under pressure has earned him the nickname "Ice Man" from his teammates.
Nelson will bring these talents to Duke University next fall.
His road to Durham has been an interesting one. Nelson, who grew up an Arizona fan, never anticipated accepting a scholarship offer from Duke.
"To tell you the truth, I was kind of not a Duke fan honestly," Nelson told the Vallejo Times-Herald. "I really was an Arizona fan. That's where I really wanted to go, and that's where I thought I could see myself going."
That all changed, though, when Nelson, then a sophomore, came to the Tournament of Champions, a prestigious AAU event in the Triangle area.
Nelson averaged 26.7 points per game to place fourth among all scorers. In comparison, then-senior and current North Carolina star Raymond Felton scored just 23.0 points per game.
His performance earned him a Duke scholarship offer, which Nelson accepted almost immediately. Nelson is now believed to be the youngest basketball player ever to commit to Duke.
Nelson, who is also an excellent student, cited an immediate bond with head coach Mike Krzyzewski and Duke's total academic and athletic package as one of the major factors in his early commitment.
"You get a mixture of both worlds. It's like no other feeling walking around there and watching how others act," he said. "It's a certain electricity that you feel. It's a real good experience and a real good feeling. I'm confident in the choice I made," Nelson told the Vallejo Times-Herald.
"I love [Duke's] program," Nelson told the Times-Herald in a separate article. "I like the way the players are playing. [Coach Krzyzewski], he's a competitor, he wants to win. He pushes players to the max, offensively and defensively. He really turns them from 18-year old kids into men," said Nelson in the February 7th interview.
Nelson returned to the Tournament of Champions in May and was third among all scorers with a scoring average of 24 points per game.
This July, Nelson again shined at the USA Development Festival in Colorado Springs, Co., which featured many of the nation's top high school players. He averaged 25.4 points per game at the tournament to lead all participants. His 7.4 rebounds per game average was third on his team, and he also dished out 6.8 assists per contest, an average bettered only by UCLA commitment Jordan Farmar and tied by much-ballyhooed Brooklyn point guard - and current Duke recruiting target - Sebastian Telfair.
Nelson is described as an aggressive player who is well known for his attacking style of play. At 6-foof-3 he is shorter than most shooting guards; however, at 190 pounds he is very solidly built for his size. He is currently ranked as the 20th best player in the class of 2004 by recruiting service Rivals.com and is generally regarded as one of the top players in the country.
"I wanted to get my teammates involved this year. I wanted to get my rebounding up and everybody knows I can score" said Nelson about his game and averaging nearly a triple-double in the February 7th interview.
Nelson is also a solid defender. Last December, Nelson held 6-foot-9 N.C. State commitment Cedric Simmons to only 16 points. Nelson scored 34 points while coming close to a triple-double with ten rebounds, five assists, and eight steals.
"Coach K has never in his life reacted in the way he reacted to DeMarcus," said DeMarcus' father Ron Nelson in a May 30 article in the Vallejo Times-Herald. "They said he went home and told his wife he finally found someone he fell in love with on sight."
Get The Chronicle straight to your inbox
Signup for our weekly newsletter. Cancel at any time.