By Thomas Sellers Jr.
Something special could be brewing on the campus of Millington Central High School and on the court of the William Osteen Gymnasium.
With a young first-time head coach and roster full of underclassmen, the Millington Lady Trojan Basketball team might be on the brink of another special run to mirror the days of former Head Coaches Kevin McMillan (mid 1990s) and Stan Gatlin (late 2000s). But before the Jason Nichols Era could get started, the man taking over the program also inherited a global pandemic to add to the challenges of year one.
“It’s been weird but we’ve been making the best of it,” he noted. “We’ve been doing other things like getting in shape and running that track.
“I think the girls are learning me and I’m learning them,” Nichols added. “They’ll willing to work and there are no complaints. They come in and whatever I ask they give there all. I think they’re accepting the change. They want to be good and they want to push themselves to be good.”
Since his hire in July, Nichols has been a consistent presence in Flag City and events involving the black and gold. Nichols has been heard cheering on his players in their other sports like volleyball and soccer.
Friday nights he’s in the stands at football games. And Nichols is a frequent sight in the halls of MCHS.
“I can see the love from the community and the love from the teachers, school board members and to the admin,” Nichols said. “There peers are supporting them and coming out. The football players telling me, ‘Coach you are really turning things around for girls basketball.’”
With no scrimmages or jamboree, the debut of the Nichols led Lady Trojans will come Nov. 17. And Nichols is hoping it will be the beginning of a two-year run with his group.
“They’re going to be with me for at least two years,” he noted. “So we’re going to make some noise. What I want from them is every game, play their hardest and compete. Give me a chance and be in the game.
“Let’s be up 5 or 6, maybe down 4 or 5 going into that fourth quarter,” Nichols continued. “Give me a chance to coach us to victory. Not saying I’m the best coach ever, but I coach on the fly and make adjustments. I can make things interesting.”
Nichols noted his junior group can take on the roles of seniors with seven in the rotation. Players like Koreena Bedford and Jonnativa Bonner will have to elevate their play alongside point guard Micaiah Halliburton.
Add in the Duckworth sisters and a trio of freshmen, the Lady Trojans will have a young athletic corps.
“They’ve been through and they’ve seen the path we need to travel to be a success,” Nichols said. “So I’m going to lean on my juniors. I’m going to lean on my underclassmen to push my juniors. That’s going to be really key.”
With the motto of “Not Built to Quit,” Nichols is trying to change the mindset of Lady Trojan Basketball and rebuild the culture to the championship level of yesteryear.
“I want to change that, I make sure they look at those banners,” he said. “Whenever we walk into the gym, we look at those banners everyday. I let them know what kind of ballplayers it took to win those. I remind them their middle school coach was a part of those banners.
“It starts with my seven juniors,” Nichols added. “They should have a chip on their shoulders. They’ve had a different coach each year. They haven’t tasted the success yet but they’ve put in the work. They really want to do it. They just have to put it in mind.”
Nichols said becoming champions will take every single player, coach and supporter of the Lady Trojans.
“Is it going to be easy?” he asked rhetorically. “No. Am I asking for perfection? Yes. I know it’s hard but be perfect. I want them to be perfect in everything they do.
“The biggest thing is I want each one of them to hold each other accountable,” Nichols concluded. “As long as they hold each other accountable, I think we’ll do something special and we’ll be successful.”