Aaron Nelson named Division II Bulletin National Player of the Month

Dennis Marshall

Aaron Nelson, a senior forward for the USI men’s basketball team, was named Division II Bulletin National Player of the Month for December, which makes him the fifth Eagle in the program’s history to win the award.

“Yeah, it feels pretty good. Especially because my team is playing pretty good. We got some quality wins over some good teams,” Nelson said. “It’s just about going out there (and) helping my team any way I can, rebounding, scoring, whatever.”

Nelson, who averages 21.9 points and 14.3 rebounds per game, has had a double-double in all 12 of the Eagles’s games this season – a USI record. On Dec. 7, Nelson had 31 points and 27 rebounds against Kentucky State.

Nelson originally went to Southwestern Illinois College (11.4 points and 6.1 rebounds) in Belleville, Ill., after he graduated from Bloom Township High School, where he was named honorable mention All-State after averaging 26 points and 12 rebounds in a season.

Nelson, a Chicago Heights native, said he chose USI because of the relationship he had with Coach Rodney Watson.

“I’ve known Coach Watson since high school, and he has always been around during my recruiting process,” Nelson said.

Before transferring to USI, Nelson also played one season for Highland Community College (10.2 points and 6.6 rebounds) in Freeport, Ill.

“We tried to recruit him out of high school but didn’t get him,” said Pete Norman, Highland’s athletic director. “He had a very good year for us. He had some injury problems early but he finished up very strong.”

Nelson was recovering from a torn anterior cruciate ligament and a torn medial collateral ligament in his left knee.

Norman said he developed a great relationship with Nelson because he was the one who recruited him to Highland.

Norman stepped down as basketball coach and became athletic director the same year that Nelson arrived at Highland.

“What I remember most is that (Nelson) has a great public personality, and he just always seemed to have a smile on his face,” Norman said. “On the basketball court, besides being a force down low, what stood out about Nelson is his soft touch around the basket and his consistency at the free throw line for a big man.”

Other former players to win the award are Jamar Smith (December 2009), Chris Thompson (November 2005, January 2006), Randy Holbrook (January 2005) and Wayne Houston (December 1997).