This week, the Eagles began accumulating the additional hardware that goes with such success as they claimed co-player of the year, co-coach of the year and co-team of the year honors from the Northwest Georgia Tipoff Club at its 27th annual banquet.
Rudy Winters, Excel’s point/shooting guard was named player; Jon-Michael Nickerson, coach; and Excel team of the year. Cartersville’s Ryan Davis, Cartersville coach Mike Tobin and the Cartersville Purple Hurricanes all shared those honors.
Nickerson said Winters deserves the recognition.
“He averaged 20 points, six rebounds and two assists per game for us,” the coach said. “He was point guard and more a shooting guard. He had to be our main scorer. He also was third in rebounding.”
Nickerson said Winters continued to improve his game during the season, making big strides at creating turnovers and interfering with the points production of Excel’s opponents.
“His defense improved a lot since he first got here,” Nickerson said. “His skills probably were a little less than average but he worked on them. He knows that and how much he’s improved. He’s real proud of the way he’s progressed.”
Nickerson said the defensive improvements had a big bearing on their 26-3 won-loss record at the end of the season.
The coach said Winters grew as a complete player and that helped the team immensely, even learning to get the crowd into the game.
“He definitely was one of the crowd favorites,” Nickerson said. “You could see him with his teammates before the game working to get their energy level really high and he’d get the crowd excited with a big time shot or a dunk.”
Coach of the year
Nickerson, in his second year of coaching, said he is honored to be named a coach of the year.
“I am not much for getting individual attention, but I am absolutely honored because of how many good coaches there are in this area,” he said. “It is definitely a blessing.”
Nickerson coaches basketball and softball at Excel.
The coach is a former left-handed pitcher with the Florida Marlins from 2003-2006 out of Stanhope Elmore High School in Millbrook, Ala.
In his rookie year, Nickerson pitched a complete game no-hitter against the Gulf Coast League Braves, a team that included Martin Prado and Jarrod Saltalamacchia.
He later retired to pursue a college basketball career, attending Kennesaw State University, where he was voted MVP as a junior, averaging 10 points, six rebounds and three assists per game. He was named Academic All-American in 2010, the first in KSU history for boys basketball; Atlantic Sun player of the week in December 2009 and was hired as Excel head coach in May of 2011.
Team of the year
The tipoff club also honored Excel as its co-team of the year.
Nickerson said the team appreciates the recognition.
“We were absolutely exited by this honor,” he said. “I know the kids felt it was well deserved because they worked extremely hard. The credit goes to those guys for their effort.”
He said having an organization from the outside recognize that work made it special.
Excel also bestowed honors on two of its players.
Nickerson named Jalen McKeller player of the month for December and Elijah Robinson player of the month for January.
Excel was named team of the month for January, when it went undefeated.