Soon-to-be Lake City graduate Nina Carlson is as versatile in life as she is on the basketball court.
There she was in the middle of her final high school season at her younger brother Jordan’s AAU basketball game, sitting on the sideline doing some honors calculus homework.
Carlson, who signed to play at the University of Idaho, is adept at multitasking. Whenever she had a spare moment the honors student, who will graduate with a 3.97 grade-point average, would do homework.
It was her homework after her sophomore season that put the 6-foot-2 Carlson on the recruiting map.
The morning after the season ended, Carlson was back in the gym at 8 shooting and working on other fundamentals as the North Idaho College women’s team, coached by her parents Chris and Carey Carlson, was practicing.
A four-year letterman and two-year starter at LC, Carlson’s transformation between her sophomore and junior seasons is measurable.
“I had big goals, but I wasn’t very confident in my game,” Carlson said. “I added weight and strength and spent a lot of time in the gym. I knew I had to improve if I wanted to play in college.”
Her confidence seemingly sprouted overnight.
“She really put in the time,” her LC coach, Bryan Kelly, said. “She really devoted herself to getting better that summer. She came back her junior year and was lights out.”
If Carlson wasn’t working out with NIC, she was playing on the North Idaho Elite club team, also coached by her parents.
“She had the tools, but mentally she stepped up her game,” Kelly said. “She was always in the gym with the older girls and her parents. It was a huge testament of where you can take your game.”
Carlson’s final prep season stretched her. LC, which took fourth at state two years ago and played for a trophy last season, graduated most of its experience at guard. Kelly leaned on Carlson to be one of the primary ball handlers.
She played all five positions at LC – and played them well.
“She was one of the big reasons we were so successful the last two years,” Kelly said. “She was a leader. She took on the leadership role and pushed the other girls. It was cool to see her maturity develop.”
Carlson averaged 14 points, eight rebounds and three assists last season. She usually defended the opponents’ best player.
“She was playing out of position all year because she had to for us,” Kelly said. “She played point guard or shooting guard more than her natural position, wing or forward.”
Carlson will likely play forward for Idaho but has the ability to step out to wing and shooting guard with her 3-point shooting range.
She’s also a tenacious defender, using her long arms to her advantage.
“Nina is unbelievably long,” UI coach Jon Newlee said in a news release announcing her signing last November. “She is able to play inside and out. She can shoot the 3 and is a very aggressive rebound. She can finish inside with either hand, which is what I really like. She has an incredibly high basketball IQ.”
The basketball intelligence is part of her DNA. Her parents coached NIC to a national championship in 2011.
“She’s very bright and works hard at it, too,” Kelly said. “She has a can-do attitude about everything. That’s going to make her successful in life. I’m excited to see what she can do at Idaho.”
Carlson will play in her final high school game Thursday in the Jack Blair Memorial game as part of the Region team that takes on the Metro team comprised of Greater Spokane League all-stars. The game is at Post Falls and tips off at 7:30.
It’s one final time to play with a handful of club teammates – Melody Kempton and Bayley Brennan of Post Falls and Allison Kirby and Keelie Lawler of Timberlake.
Kempton, Carlson’s best friend, has given Gonzaga an oral commitment. Kirby and Carlson will play together at Idaho. Kirby was one of the Vandals’ three signees in their 2017 class.
Carlson is looking forward to going to Idaho. She eventually wants to coach at the collegiate level.
As a dual-enrolled student at LC, Carlson earned 21 college credits. That will put her almost a year ahead academically.
She’ll spend her summer working at NBC camps in the area and doing a prescribed workout from Idaho.
It’s her hope to hit the ground running at Idaho.
In many ways, she’s well on her way.
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