By R. Alan Richardson
Sydney Nash, daughter of Roland and Sara Nash, fulfilled her dream of playing college basketball this past week by deciding to accept a full ride academic and athletic scholarship to Emmanuel College. Emmanuel competes in the Southern States Athletic Conference of the NAIA College Division and is located in Franklin Springs, Georgia. Emmanuel’s Head Coach, Mike Bona, is a nationally recognized basketball coach and athletic director who has served at the school for 40 years. He said this about Nash, “We are happy to have her join our team. We needed to sign a combo guard since we lost one to graduation this year. We think she can come in and help us at that position right away. Her ability to put the ball on the floor, shoot the three ball, and guard on the defensive end will give her that opportunity. I also really like her leadership ability and how she constantly speaks encouragement to all her teammates. I have been watching her play the last few years both in high school and in AAU basketball and we are really looking forward to having her become a part of the Emmanuel Lady Lions!”
The senior was most recognized this past season for doing the dirty work on an AAA State Championship team averaging 12 points and nine rebounds. Her tenacious style of play reminded many of the old cartoon character, the Tasmanian Devil, as she led the team in floor burns and all-out hustle plays. She may have been the missing piece that helped lead the team to the title.
Nash was thrust into a starting role her freshman year when the Lady Dogs graduated 12 seniors from the previous year and remained a started for four years. She had to grow up quick along with the other freshman starters and it paid dividends down the road. As a ninth grader, under Coach Charlemagne Gibbons and assistant Josh Reeves, she said, “The learning curve increased dramatically for us. We were young and lost a good bit, but that’s no excuse.”
She and her team came along quickly and won three straight region titles going into her senior year. They made the Elite Eight her sophomore season, but took a devastating loss in the first round her junior year. “That was an eye-opener for us. We knew we had to get back to working hard and knew we were capable of winning state,” she said. All of us know what the outcome of that spectacular senior season was. The Lady Dogs won the first girls’ State Championship in 33 years.
Syd, as she is affectionately called by most people, talked about why she chose Emmanuel, “We played there this past year in the Region Tournament and Coach Bona offered me a scholarship. I was so focused on the season that I didn’t want to make a decision until we fulfilled our dream. He invited me up for a workout with the team and I went. The players were all so encouraging and kind. They were helping me during drills and made me feel welcomed. That’s the kind of team I wanted to play for.”
Nash grew up on a large farm in Morgan County and knows about hard work. That’s probably what instilled in her the work ethic she portrayed on the floor. She wanted to thank a lot of folks saying, “My parents both have had large impacts in my life because they raised me with the idea of working hard for what I want, which is directly correlated to becoming decent at anything. They support me and always allow me to pursue my dreams. They spent time and money on my sport from a young age so I could play the game I love! They never complained or asked anything in return, which is great because I could never do enough to pay them back!
My sisters all supported me throughout my life. They were being dragged to every game and tournament instead of doing what they would have probably rather been doing! Morgan was my competition growing up! We hated losing to each other and I always wanted to be better than her at everything because she was my big sister and role model.
Coach Reeves has had a huge impact on my life because he was like my second father on and off the court. He believed in me when I was discouraged and couldn’t believe in myself. Basketball is a game where confidence can be the difference in the level at which you play and he gave me that boost when I needed it.
My teammates are amazing! I love them to death and I cannot even put into words the full impact they had in my life! Off and on the court they are my family, my backbone, and my support! When I moved here they were the first people I met and I thank God for it! You can just say there is never a dull moment on our team.
Lastly my friends gave me the support in my life. All my friends support my dreams and believe in me sometimes more than I believe in myself! My best friend, Kaylee Darsey, is a cheerleader for the school and has been my best friend since she moved here in eighth grade. It’s rare to find a friend like her who is so unwavering and constant! She has always been there to tell me, “You can do this!” She influences my life by being a God fearing person and keeps me accountable.”
Nash is undecided on her major but may follow her Dad, who is a doctor, into the medical field, go into business, or get a minor in drama.
Her Mother, Sara Nash, commented on Sydney, “I am very excited for Sydney to be playing college ball. She has always been exciting to watch and a stand out for her hustle. Growing up in Tennessee, Sydney played travel soccer & basketball. She has wanted to play college ball since fifth grade. After moving to Morgan County in seventh grade she joined Coach Tommy McWhorter’s Scholar Shots AAU team with many of her teammates from MOCO and later played for the Atlanta Celtics. Coaches Tommy McWhorter, Anthony Williams, and Joshua Reeves really invested in Sydney and developed her as a player.
It has been so exciting to watch Sydney and her teammates play over the years. Winning the state AAA championship seemed so natural after these ladies have played year round together for so many years.
She had interest from D1, D2, D3 & NAIA schools and chose Emmanuel College. I believe it is a good fit for Sydney. She wanted a Christian School and she already knows several of her teammates from AAU. I believe she will contribute immediately to the team.
Watching Sydney play basketball has always brought me a lot of joy. I’m thankful that she can continue playing throughout college and we will be able to continue watching her play competitively. I am also proud that she has worked hard to earn a scholarship too.”
Dr. Nash summed it up saying, “I’m glad she’s going to continue playing. She has great instincts and basketball IQ. I could see her coaching at a high level someday. She is tenacious and the best rebounder for her size I’ve ever seen.
Faith in Christ is a vital part of Sydney’s life and all her decisions including where to attend college. I’m proud in this day of cultural decay that she’ll be playing ball for a school where they teach the Word. I’m also glad she’ll be close enough that we can see any of her games.”