DRAFFENVILLE – A Marshall County High School senior was called out of the grandstands onto the football field Friday night during the Marshals’ regular-season finale against Graves County to try to make an extra-point kick.
The young man’s kick split the uprights, and he walked off the field smiling, holding a hundred-dollar bill – the prize for the weekly promotion sponsored by Benton insurance agency owner Larry Krouse, a former MCHS football coach.
The student is no stranger to achievement in Marshall County High sports, but his exploits are usually on the hardwood. The PAT kicker was basketball standout Cole Nelson.
His placekicking prowess may have been unknown to the general public prior to Friday night, but as Nelson prepares for his senior season in basketball, flying under the radar is not an option. Nelson is rated one of the top players in the First Region for 2011-2012, with an endorsement as No. 1 by The Cats’ Pause basketball yearbook.
“I’m just humbled by it,” said Nelson. “All I did this summer was work at basketball.”
The off-season work, he emphasized, was not in the hope or expectation of individual honors, but rather to ensure himself of the best possible performance his senior year.
“I just happened to be No. 1,” he said. “There are some great players in the region.”
Nelson won the starting point guard spot last season and averaged 10.1 points and 4.1 rebounds per game. Both figures are at the top of the stat sheet among returning players for coach Gus Gillespie.
Nelson guided the Marshals to the First Region championship last year and a long-awaited return to the Sweet Sixteen. Marshall County bowed out in the quarterfinals by Bullitt East, in spite of a 20-point, 10-rebound performance by Nelson.
Nelson draws inspiration from two men who played long before his time. One is the legendary Pete Maravich, who starred at LSU and went on to a career in the NBA. “Pistol Pete” averaged 44.2 points per game in his three years in college from 1967-70 and was regarded as one of the best and most flamboyant ball handlers ever.
“I’ve watched films of him,” Nelson said. “It just shows how hard he worked to get where he wanted.”
The other role model is Marshall County’s Jeremy Story, Nelson’s half-brother, who graduated when Nelson was just a toddler. Story was point guard on the 1995 Marshall County team that advanced to the final four in the state tournament.
Last year’s team was the first to make it back to the Sweet Sixteen since 1995. Nelson wears the same jersey number, 33, that his brother wore.
Nelson has a chance to one-up his big brother by leading the Marshals to a second state tourney appearance. The Cats’ Pause also ranked Marshall County as the favorite to repeat its region championship and return to Rupp Arena in March.