When the James Madison Dukes arrived in Dayton, Ohio for the 2013 NCAA Tournament, many, including head coach Matt Brady, expected JMU’s seniors to carry the load for the Colonial Athletic Association tournament champions. After all, it was the James Madison seniors Devon Moore, Rayshawn Goins and A.J. Davis who carried the Dukes to the CAA title in the championship game in Richmond.
However, on the University of Dayton Arena court, it was freshman guard Andre Nation who shined for Brady’s Dukes.
In JMU’s play-in game victory over LIU Brooklyn, Nation led the way for James Madison, and never shied away from the spotlight. The freshman from Plant City, Fla. keyed the Dukes’ aggressive defensive effort that limited the Blackbirds to their lowest scoring total of the entire season. Nation finished that contest with an impressive stat line of 14 points, seven rebounds, four assists, one steal and a whopping five blocks.
It was more of the same for Nation when the No. 16 Dukes squared up against No. 1 Indiana on Friday afternoon as well.
Playing against a lineup that featured several future NBA players, Nation looked like a player who was meant to hang with the Hoosiers. At 6-5, 200 pounds the guard clearly has the body type to be an athletic specimen on the court, but his sheer skill and defensive slyness is what has turned his name into a consistency on Tournament pre and post game shows.
Against the Hoosiers, Nation finished with 24 points, four rebounds and one block. But, the crowd oogled and oggled at the high-flying alley-oop he finished and the ridiculous 18-footer and one he drilled late in the second half. It was all cotton.
In fact, as many people will walk away from this game and think that the Hoosiers’ 21-point victory only shows just how poised IU is for a Final Four run, those same people will also leave this game saying, “I have to remember that kid Andre Nation’s name.”
He will certainly be a factor for the Dukes over the next several years. A starter this season, Nation’s four co-starters for Brady’s club were all seniors. Nation will most likely be joined by fellow freshmen, Charles Cooke, Taylor Bessick and Ron Curry to fill some of the gap in the starting lineup for JMU next season. However, it will be Nation who the team will lean on as the go-to player when the going gets rough. It will be Nation who Brady will instill all of his trust in barring the coach’s return to the program.
And, it will be Nation who may find himself on the 1st Team All-CAA next preseason.