By R. Alan Richardson
It would have been easy to include this man in our Morgan’s Finest Athletes articles, but Coach Nelson deserves an article of his own. He is one of many former Bulldog athletes that have returned home after college to coach at their alma mater. Anne Stamps, Allen Crowley, Davis Bell, Alvin Richardson, Brett Bell, Merritt Ainslie, Rob Brown, Jamond Sims, Denise Frost, and many other volunteer/community coaches have given back to the school and athletic program along with Buck. That’s a pretty elite club to be a member of.
Nelson grew up in the projects near the middle school, but one thing they always had was basketball. “We had three levels of play and you had to earn or play your way to the next level. We had a goal on a clothes line, a cast iron goal on dirt, and the blacktop. That’s where it all started. There and the recreation league about nine. I started watching basketball and became a student of the game. My biggest enemy then is now my best friend when we competed against each other (Lergregory Greene). We simply didn’t like each other,” he laughed.
Coach John Hood became his coach at MCMS for three years and he played football for one season before moving on to high school under the tutelage of legendary basketball coach, Donald Harris. “I basically played any position on the floor Coach Harris needed me to play. I really came into my own after I broke my ankle my sophomore year. That junior year we cracked the top 10 for the first time in a while, but we lost to Washington County to make it to state. My senior year I averaged over 20 points per game and got the scoring record until BJ (Elder) destroyed it.” the 1997 graduate told us.
Buck played four years at Fort Valley State University as a guard. During his freshman campaign, the Wildcats took home the SIAC Division 2 conference championship. Jonathan chimed in on his college days with these remarks, “In both my junior and senior years, we did well and I joined the 1000 point club. It was a great career for me.”
Nelson started his teaching career at Morgan in 2005 as a long-term sub, but was then approached by Crossroads Principal Janie Broadnax who asked him to apply. He got the job and the rest is history. He’s been coaching in several capacities over the past 10 years. Here’s what he had to say about that span, “I have a lot of people who influenced me during my career here. Coach Kenny Moore gave me my first coaching job, Mrs. Broadnax, Alvin Richardson, Clint Jenkins, Allen Crowley, Bill Malone, Donald Harris, Mark Wilson, Dr. Malanowski, Steve Cisson, Darren Stephens, Michael Moore (FVSU) and Charlemagne Gibbons who offered me my first basketball job. I’m sure there are many others I could name.”
Nelson spent 10 years back home positively influencing young athletes. One of his best friends, Milfred Franklin who coaches the Middle School team said, “Where can I start? Coach Nelson has truly been a great role model and mentor for the Morgan County School system and basketball program. He was one of the “original” building blocks that started this great success of Morgan County basketball over the last six plus years. There have been several times he’s sacrificed family time with gym time and funded players and kids who needed something to eat or a ride to or from practice. Those are the things that can’t be recorded in a scorebook, but will be in the hearts and minds of those students whose lives he touched. Not only have I gained knowledge from him in the coaching aspect but also as a God-fearing man. One thing Coach Nelson always believed and preached was “trust the system and the blueprint has been laid”. On behalf of me, I wish him nothing but the best!”
Jonathan now takes on the monumental task of building a basketball program from scratch. The school is named NewRockPrep Sports Academy which will be located in the old Cousins Middle School in Covington. They will be utilizing approximately 22-24 classrooms along with the gym and cafeteria. He talked about his new position, “We’re a post-grad program that is a level above high school, but right below college. We will be competing against other prep schools, junior colleges, NAIA, and Division II and III programs. It’s a nice atmosphere. Like most prep schools, we will be a bridge from high school to college for those athletes who are having trouble academically or struggling to make the required scores to sign a college scholarship. We have services that will help them get there. Our vision is to have a full high school team in two to three years and in six to seven years have a full high school athletic program.”
He wanted to make sure he thanked a lot of people, “My wife, Brandi, has to be a special woman to take care of the kids (Donovan-15, Brandon-9 Skyleigh-2), the house, be a taxi, and deal with my coaching obligations. Coach Gibbons is like a brother to me and I wanted to tell him how much I owe him. My Grandmother, Betty June Nelson, was the matriarch of our family and taught us a work ethic by leading by example. My Mom, Martha Nelson, who hardly ever missed a game. I could always look up and find her in the stands. The eight aunts who helped raise me and kept me in line. My brother and sister (Darron and Veronica) who instilled toughness in me. They once threw me in a trashcan and I almost cut my toe off.
I also have a close circle of friends in Elgin Chapman, Antonio Howell, Corey Williams, Jamal Casey, Rydrell Lundy, and Milfred Franklin that have always supported me.”
Athletic Director and Head football coach at the time was Coach Moore who said, “Buck was a fierce competitor as an athlete and a team player. He has a knack with kids. For Morgan County to lose Buck is a shame because he is one of our own and our community will miss him. I hope we did everything we could to retain his services.”
The new head coach wrapped it up with this, “I want to thank this community for supporting me and welcoming me back with open arms. I’ve never had a bad day and always wanted to go to work so it has been a wonderful 10 years. I hope the saying that you can always go back home will hold true for me in the future.”