Darris Nichols

Darris Nichols

Darris Nichols (born May 30, 1985 in Radford, Virginia) is a basketball player for the West Virginia Mountaineers. Nichols is famous in Mountaineer-lore for hitting the game-winning three-point shot that sent the Mountaineers to the NIT Championship game in 2007. He also holds the school record for the most career games played and most tournament games played all-time, tied for the school record for the most all-time postseason tournament games played, and the NCAA record for playing 141 games without fouling out.

Early life

Darris Nichols, born to William and Donna Nichols, excelled in basketball in high school. He was named as the Roanoke Times Sizzling Sophomore of the Year and as a junior he averaged 21.7 points per game and 5.1 assists per game. He shot 52% from the field and 83.1% from the free throw line while making the all-group A first-team squad. He was named as the Roanoke Times All-Timesland Player of the Year as a senior and scored 32 points in the semifinal loss in the county tournament. He averaged 24.8 points per game, 7.1 rebounds per game, and 6.0 assists per game. Nichols shot 55.6 percent from the field, 35.6 from three-point range, and 80.1 percent of free throws.

Collegiate career

Freshman season

Nichols started his career during the 2004-05 campaign. He played in all 35 games, starting two of them. In those 35 games, Nichols averaged 3.0 points per game and 1.2 rebounds while dishing out 64 assists. His first collegiate points came on a three-point shot against Duquesne, while he registered three assists and two rebounds against LSU. He scored 10 points with three steals and three assists against Radford. He also had nine points against George Washington and five points, five assists, and no turnovers against North Carolina State. Nichols first collegiate start came against St. John's and he finished with four points and four rebounds and his second start came against Marshall when he had six points. He scored four points against Boston College in the Big East tournament. In the NCAA Tournament, Nichols scored four points against Wake Forest, two points against Texas Tech, and three points against Louisville.

Sophomore season

In the 2005-2006 campaign, Nichols played in all 33 games, backing up J.D. Collins and the amazing senior class at West Virginia, that included Kevin Pittsnogle and Mike Gansey. Nichols averaged 3.1 points per game and 1.2 rebounds per game and dished out 51 assists for the season. Nichols shot a poor 38.4 percent from the floor but a great 81.8 percent from the free throw. Nichols scored a season-high nine points against UMBC and scored seven points in 15 minutes against Duquesne. He scored five points against Oklahoma and four points against UCLA. Nichols scored five points and dished out five assists against Syracuse. In the NCAA Tournament, Nichols scored seven points against Southern Illinois University, five points against Northwestern State, and handed out three assists in the loss to the Texas Longhorns. The most memorable play from Nichols' sophomore season came in the Tournament against Northwestern St., when Nichols hit a shot from half court as the buzzer sounded at halftime.

Junior season

As a junior during the 2006-07 campaign, the West Virginia squad was young, with Frank Young and center Rob Summers the only seniors. Nichols and Young were the only two players who were starters throughout the whole season. Nichols averaged 10.9 points per game and 2.9 rebounds per game in his breakout season, while dishing a career-high 165 assists for the season. Nichols hit 91 of 108 free throws on the season and 125 of 251 field goals.

Nichols started the season out good early against Western Michigan University when he tallied 18 points with four assists. Nichols was 10-10 from the free thow line as well. He followed the performance up in the Mountaineers' first loss of the season against Arkansas with 15 points and 4 assists. In the win against UConn, Nichols totaled 14 points and three assists. Two weeks later, Nichols set a career-high with 20 points against St. John's with four three-point shots. Nichols then totaled 16 points against Marshall, Rutgers, and Seton Hall. He then recorded 17 against Seton Hall weeks later, followed by 16 again against Cincinnati and Providence in the Big East Tournament.

The Mountaineers were eliminated in the Conference Tourney in an 82-71 double-overtime loss to the Louisville Cardinals. Darris Nichols' performance in the game almost pulled away the win for the Mountaineers. His layup with 4.3 seconds left nearly sealed the win for the Mountaineers, but the Cardinals came back and sent the game into overtime with a layup as well. The Cardinals' layup was controversial, due to the mess-up of the clock, which should have resulted in time running out before the Cardinals moved down the court. Nichols' tying free throws also sent the game into the second overtime, but the Cardinals pulled away.

The Mountaineers missed the NCAA Tournament, but were accepted as a #1-seed in the 2007 National Invitation Tournament. Nichols registered 6 points against Delaware State, 14 points against UMass, and 8 points against North Carolina State. In one of the most memorable moments in West Virginia basketball history, the Mountaineers defeated Mississippi State 63-62 due to Nichols and his 17 points. Nichols got the inbounds pass, down 62-60 with two seconds left, and hit a three-point shot to win the game for the Mountaineers and send the squad into the NIT Championship. In the Championship Game, Nichols 13 points and 9 assists helped the Mountaineers win their second NIT-crown, 78-73.

Nichols won the team's Team Man and Charge Leader awards after the season ended.

Senior season

After the Mountaineers' NIT Championship victory, head coach John Beilein surprisingly left the team for a coaching job with the Michigan Wolverines, whose head coach had been fired. Supposedly, Nichols had a confrontation with Beilein when he announced it to the team about his leave. Nichols and new head coach, Bob Huggins grew close very quick.

In the Mountaineers' season-opening exhibition game against Mountain State, Nichols scored 21 points, grabbed 3 rebounds, and dished 3 assists in the 88-65 win. In the 72-74 loss to Tennessee, Nichols scored a season-high 15 points, grabbed 3 rebounds, dished 3 assists, and recorded two steals. Nichols then had 11 points against New Mexico State and 12 against Winthrop. Against Maryland-Baltimore County, Nichols scored 16 points and grabbed 3 rebounds, then against Radford University he scored a season-high 23 points and dished a season-high 8 assists.

In the loss to Oklahoma, Nichols had 13 points, followed up by 6 points in the loss to Notre Dame. He then had 17 points and 6 assists in the victory over Syracuse. In the 73-64 victory over St. John's, Nichols scored 10 points. In the 58-57 loss to #9 Georgetown, Nichols led the team with 16 points and 6 rebounds. He followed up with 17 points in a loss to Cincinnati, 23 points in a victory over Providence, and 16 points in the loss to #25 Pittsburgh in the Backyard Brawl.

In the 89-68 victory over Seton Hall, Nichols scored 11 points and grabbed 5 rebounds. In the 85-73 victory over DePaul, Nichols scored 9 points and dished 7 rebounds to gain the 20th win of the season. On Senior Night in his last game at WVU Coliseum in his collegiate career, Nichols scored 17 points and grabbed 5 rebounds on the way to the 76-62 victory over the Pittsburgh Panthers in the Backyard Brawl. In the regular season finale, Nichols scored 6 points as the Mountaineers defeated Providence 83-74 in overtime. Nichols finished his final college season with 11.2 points, 3.4 assists, and 3.4 rebounds per game over the season.

In the second round of the Big East tourney, the Mountaineers upset the #15-ranked Connecticut Huskies, 78-72. Darris Nichols contributed with 13 points and 4 rebounds. In the first round of the NCAA Tournament, Nichols scored 14 points as the #7-seed Mountaineers defeated the #10-seed Arizona Wildcats. In the 73-67 second round upset over the #2-seed Duke Blue Devils, Nichols scored 5 points. In the Sweet 16 loss to #3-seed Xavier, Nichols finished his collegiate career with 6 points, 4 rebounds, and 4 assists.

Darris Nichols finished his final collegiate season averaging 10.7 points, 3.3 rebounds, and 3.2 assists per game. Nichols also finished his collegiate career as the school's all-time leader in games played and most tournament games played all-time, tied for the school record for the most all-time postseason tournament games played, and the NCAA record for playing 141 games without fouling out.

Trivia

  • Nichols' father, William Nichols, was an All-American at Berea College, while Darris' brother is currently a player at Wofford and played at Saint Peter’s in 2003-04 and was freshman of the year in the MAAC.
  • As a freshman Darris Nichols had a bad habit of stepping on the 3-point line when taking outside jump shots, coach John Beilein noted after he made the game-winning 3-point shot against Mississippi State in the NIT semifinals.

References

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