By Maurice Patton
Logan Helton and Daniel Nicholson will get to be teammates for a bit longer.
Two of the key performers in Richland’s run to the Class A boys basketball state tournament this year signed NAIA scholarships with Martin Methodist College during a Friday ceremony at the school.
Martin Methodist will be rebranded as the University of Tennessee-Southern on July 1, making Helton and Nicholson part of the first class of incoming Firehawk athletes.
“Talking to both their dads – if their paths had gone separate ways, I think they’d have done well. But just knowing you’ve got somebody that’s been with you through thick and thin already, I think will be good for both of them,” Richland coach Jason Loveless said.
“They’re probably both going to redshirt. That’s a tough pill to swallow for two kids that have started four years. But I think mentally they can handle that. They have areas they can improve on and develop. That redshirt year is going to fly by, they’ll put the work in, and my vision is that in two or three years they’ll be making an impact on the floor for UT-Southern.”
Nicholson, a Tennessee Sports Writers Association Class A all-state selection, averaged nearly 18 points per game for the Raiders, with Helton averaging almost 15 points per contest. With the two leading the way, Richland advanced to the Class A state quarterfinals for the first time since 2013.
The pair combined for 33 points in the team’s 56-55 season-ending loss to North Greene to complete a 26-2 campaign.
Loveless said the recruitment process had been a challenge for both, with minimal interest shown beyond the junior college level in Nicholson. Greenville (Ill.) University, an NCAA Division III program, had been one of the few to show interest in Helton.
“It’s been a tough year in recruiting because of the fifth year that was awarded (to seniors following the pandemic),” the coach said. “That’s the right thing, to bring those kids back and let them play, but it’s also a hardship on the incoming freshmen.
“But just like battling COVID, these guys persevered through (the recruitment issues). I think it’s a good situation for them. I’m really proud.”
Though a redshirt is likely for both players, they are entering the program as varsity athletes, according to Loveless – who’s excited to see the two just down the road in Pulaski.
“They were signed as varsity players, not JV or developmental players. I think that’s a big deal,” he said.
“I can load up the team and hopefully go watch ‘em play.”