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Chewelah’s Nelson embraces latest opportunity

Nikki Nelson of Chewelah plays for the University of New Mexico.
Nikki Nelson of Chewelah plays for the University of New Mexico.

Not much has gone right for Nikki Nelson since she took her basketball skills to New Mexico after graduating from Chewelah.

As chronicled before, there was the anterior cruciate ligament injury to her left knee before her first season and the ACL injury to her right knee before last season.

So it was worth contacting the fifth-year junior, if only to congratulate her when she opened the season as a starter for the Lobos.

“It’s amazing,” she said. “It’s such a great feeling, it really is. … I don’t even now how to describe it. It’s such a great feeling to be able to play.”

UNM lost a pair of games on the road before dropping a two-point decision to 12th-ranked Oklahoma in its home opener. Discussing that, Nelson revealed how good that result was considering that five non-seniors left the team after last season, citing burnout, and the retirement of successful coach Don Flannigan.

“I wasn’t discouraged, because I’ve had to learn to roll with the punches because of injuries,” said the 5-foot-5 guard, who had five points, six assists and four rebounds against the Sooners. “There wasn’t much I could do. It was out of my control. … The team has come together. As a whole, we’ve learned to grow through (adversity).”

Nelson isn’t likely to petition for a sixth year. She already declined an opportunity to take graduate courses, electing to spread out credits so she’ll stay eligible and graduate in the spring with a biology major and psychology minor, with plans of applying to medical school.

It’s not hard to envision Nelson as an orthopedic surgeon, but something says she’ll be successful taking any path.

“I’ve had an amazing opportunity down here,” Nelson said before heading off for the fourth start of her career against Eastern New Mexico on Tuesday night. “I wouldn’t change it for the world.”

On tap

Idaho is headed to the New Mexico tournament, facing Pepperdine on Friday. Morehead State is playing the Lobos.

The road gets more pleasant for Washington State. After games at Wisconsin and South Dakota State, the Cougars are at the Paradise Jam in the Virgin Islands. They play Marquette on Thursday, Michigan on Friday and Prairie View A&M on Saturday. Their home opener is next Wednesday against Gonzaga.

Eastern Washington gets Thanksgiving off but plays at Brigham Young on Saturday and Portland on Tuesday as the start of five straight on the road.

Gonzaga had 10 days off following last week’s romp at Idaho that gave coach Kelly Graves his 300th win as a head coach. Graves couldn’t get a game for last weekend and passed on a holiday tournament. Big Sky favorite Portland State, with former WSU coach Sherri Murrell, visits on Sunday.


Katie Baker (Lake City) had a game-high 22 points to lead Montana past Idaho. Krissy Karr and Ganeaya Rogers returned to action for the Vandals after missing one game with injuries. Abigail Quinnett of Moscow, who just signed a letter of intent with Idaho, blew out a knee over the weekend. … Tifa Puletasi (Mead) is no longer playing for Saint Mary’s. … Sophomore Katelyn Loper (Post Falls) had a career-high 29 points last weekend when Hofstra upset St. John’s, giving her a team-leading average of 20.7 points in three games. … On the night April Cook surpassed 1,000 career points for WSU, classmate Jazmine Perkins reached 1,042, putting her 11th on the career list.

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