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Archbishop Hoban's Jonas Nichols showing maturity and growth on and off the basketball court

Nichols has improved from freshman year to senior year, breaking the school's scoring record and making the honor roll

AKRON, Ohio - When Jonas Nichols arrived at Archbishop Hoban, he knew what he wanted to achieve on the basketball court. What he didn't realize was how the journey would make him better off the court as well.

On Thursday, January 25, Nichols achieved his goal of becoming the all-time leading scorer in Hoban history with a driving layup in a win over Spire to eclipse the record held by 2018 graduate Collen Gurley, who just one night before had broken the career scoring record at the University of Mount Union. 

Gurley was in attendance on Tuesday night as the Knights defeated Holy Name 81-52 behind 32 points from Nichols and the two shared the court together in a pregame ceremony where Gurley handed Nichols the game ball from his record-breaking night.

"He DMed me on Instagram when he was in eighth grade going into his freshman year and he was like, I'm coming for your record," Gurley said. "And I was like, do it. And we just kind of clicked ever since. We've been cool and we keep up with each other." 

Nichols admitted to sending that message but also said he learned so much from getting the chance to work out with Gurley on the court.

"That record is very special to me," Nichols said. "When I came to Hoban and I first touched down, (Collen Gurley and I) got a work out in together, just learning moves, learning his IQ for the game. And he was already at the collegiate level for about two years. It was like a role model type of thing. I wanted to be like Collen Gurley. He was the man at Hoban and I just wanted to take over that role."

But taking over the role as the man at Hoban doesn't just mean being a good basketball player, a lesson Nichols quickly learned as a freshman.

"Freshman year Jonas had no idea how to be part of a team," Hoban head coach T.K. Griffith said. "He was coming from AAU land, he had a videographer that was following him around and like three other people. But he has been able to cut the cord on most of that and just focus on trying to get better as a basketball player and how to be a teammate."

Looking back, it's a sentiment Nichols shares with his coach, and he even went a step further.

"Freshman year Jonas was coming in unpolished I'll say, I was just a knucklehead and not really willing to listen," Nichols said. "I just (didn’t have) enough basketball knowledge at the high school level. Coming in, I wanted to shoot a lot of tough shots and I wasn't really buying into the team."

But Nichols was willing to listen and learn when players like Isaiah Young, Thomas Crowe, Andrew Hardman and others stepped into their leadership roles to guide him down the right path.

"They were shepherds and they shepherded him on how to be part of a team," Griffith said. "And they shepherded him on how to care more about the team than the individual. It was baby step after baby step."

Nichols took those steps in stride and it was those players who made Nichols understand that it is about more than just basketball at Hoban.

"Those guys just all helped me become a better man," Nichols said. "And one thing I learned about Hoban is coach TK doesn't really care about what's on the court, he really cares about what's off the court. And once I got that in my head from freshman year to senior year, it gave me a real big jump in life, not just on the basketball court."

Archbishop Hoban head coach T.K. Griffith and senior Jonas Nichols talk during a game on January 30, 2024

Archbishop Hoban head coach T.K. Griffith and senior Jonas Nichols talk during a game on January 30, 2024

After his freshman year, Nichols faced a difficult decision. 

Those around him wanted him to transfer out of Hoban and into a school that would help him focus just on basketball and trying to get him to the next level. To Nichols' credit, he made the call to stay at Hoban, even as others tried to sway him the other way.

"He was the one who demanded that he stay," Griffith said. "That's so rare. Usually the kid wants to go and the parents think about staying, but he saw something special in our community and wanted to wrap his arms around it because there are so many good people here."

Nichols admits he felt the pressure to leave, but he also had already seen what positive impact Hoban and the Hoban community could make on him.

"I was just becoming a good basketball player, and people were thinking I need to be on a higher market team," Nichols said. "I just believe that we're more of a family at Hoban, it's not just about basketball. I didn't want to go somewhere like IMG or Huntington Prep, where it's just about basketball and they only care about what you do on the court. I wanted to stay in a community and an environment that cares about what you do off the court instead of just on the court."

One of those things Hoban cares about off the court is academics. That wasn't even on Nichols' radar during his freshman year.

"I came in freshman year and it was COVID year and I wasn’t really taking school too seriously," Nichols said. "I'm not really thinking about the collegiate level and what the grades need to be there. So I really started thinking about that about sophomore year."

Thinking about his grades came after a talk with Griffith, who told him that he wouldn't be playing past high school if his academics were not in line with his athletics. Nichols listened, got his grades right, and earned a scholarship to play basketball at Kent State University.

"Coach told me you’re not going to be able to play at the collegiate level if you don’t get your grades right," Nichols said. "I was sitting at like a 1.8 (grade point average), so it was real, real bad. We had a big meeting with my mom and he was just telling me I needed to get better, so I just started working at it, chipping away, chipping away. I took a whole new gear of it, I just started taking it real serious. And I got honor roll (this year)."

But the story of Jonas Nichols doesn't just happen because there was a switch flipped one day. It comes together with the help of the entire community within Hoban. 

"I have a ton of gratitude for him staying here and believing in us but also all the people through the school day that help him," Griffith said. "Our administrators, our teachers, our counselors, our tutors. He doesn’t need the help so much from a cognitive way, but just staying on track with things. There are so many people who have stepped up here in his life to influence him. It's just an amazing story."

Now it is Nichols who is the shepherd of others, the way he was shepherded by the likes of Young, Crowe and Hardman. 

"I feel like he is giving back to everybody else," Griffith said. "Now I feel like he went from the one they were trying to train and trying to form and now he is trying to form everybody else. To see that transition, that’s the beauty of coaching to see a young man go from a little bit more of an island to the leader of the continent."

And while the scoring record and the state championship last season and all of the accomplishments on the court are great, what Nichols is doing off the court might just be his biggest feat yet.

"He's scoring in life more than he's scoring on the basketball court even though he's a pretty dang good basketball player," Griffith said. 

-- Ryan Isley | | @sbliveoh