Every coach hopes for it. Every player strives for it.
But the proof of a player’s rise from being a contributor to becoming a presence is seen game after game. With Northwest Byron Nelson boys basketball returning no starters from the 2015-2016 playoff team, starting jobs became available for 2016-2017.
Senior Nils Huizenga knew it was his chance to become one of those starters.
“If I was going to get the rest of the players’ and coaches’ trust, I felt like I had to be a leader in the workout sessions,” Huizenga said. “I definitely had to improve physically and learn to finish around the basket. My AAU coach really worked on my feet with the ladder so they would be quicker.”
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The payoff is being seen every time the Bobcats play a game. At 9.2 points and 10 rebounds a night, the 6-7, 205-pound post is on his way to averaging a double double this season. That’s something not many can do.
But beyond the production are the factors that turn games from lost causes into wins. It’s diving for a loose ball and directing it to a teammate to keep a possession alive or creating a turnover. It’s winning the tip drill off a missed shot. It’s the put-back that can trigger a run.
Those are players described as being the “glue” guys. What they do on the floor may not be seen in the stat sheet.
“He impacts the game in so many ways,” Nelson head coach Scott Curran said. “He’s a really smart player. He understands his role. His determination is something that you can’t put a number on. He’s improved so much. I really think a lot of it is because he brings a great attitude to practice.”
Huizenga started the 2015-2016 season on the junior varsity but was moved up for Georgetown tournament. Curran said his then-reserve made some important plays in several games. But his time for the remainder of the season was limited. There weren’t too many opportunities for him to play as the Bobcats were trying to advance to the playoffs.
Fast forward to the Georgetown tournament earlier this month and the change in Huizenga hit new heights. He became a relentless scorer, a fearless rebounder and a challenging defender. Curran will match him against the small forward or the center because of his versatility.
“That’s when I think I gained the trust of my teammates,” Huizenga said. “I became more comfortable with my shot. But a lot of my points come off rebounds. I feel like my post game is getting stronger. I think it comes back to my footwork and why I feel like I can do that.”
While his resume is limited in college recruiting circles, Huizenga has done enough to get on the radar with some programs. UT-Arlington is interested. Division II Texas A&M-Commerce has offered.
“The main thing I want to do is play the same in every game,” Huizenga said. “If I’m not scoring, I’m going to hustle and do all the little things to try and make a difference.”