Nutt lands a former area standout in Niemczyk

Monday, April 12, 2010

The latest verbal commitment for the Southeast Missouri State men's basketball program is an especially interesting one because of its local nature.

Former Bell City standout Nick Niemczyk, a sophomore guard at Three Rivers Community College in Poplar Bluff, Mo., recently accepted Southeast coach Dickey Nutt's scholarship offer.

The 6-foot Niemczyk, who can play both guard positions, was among the top players this year for a TRCC team that finished second in the national junior college tournament.

Niemczyk's season was cut short near the end when he suffered a torn ACL in the national semifinals and missed the title game. His surgery is scheduled for Wednesday, the opening of the spring signing period, so he'll have to sign his letter of intent a few days later.

Niemczyk told me he expects to be available when practice begins in October, although you never know with an ACL. If his recovery doesn't progress as well as anticipated, he can always use a redshirt season and still have two years of eligibility remaining.

Niemczyk earned all-Region 16 honors this year when he averaged nearly 13 points per game while shooting better than 42 percent from 3-point range and better than 78 percent from the free-throw line.

He also averaged more than two assists and nearly two steals. He ranked among the region leaders in scoring, 3-point shooting, free-throw shooting, assists and steals.

From everything I've been told, Niemczyk has improved a great deal athletically since his high school days and, if healthy, should be a solid contributor for the Redhawks.

Niemczyk is Southeast's third known verbal commitment for the spring signing period, joining 7-foot, 255-pound junior college center Zach House and 6-8 high school forward Dominique Elliott, although there is some question whether Elliott will qualify academically.

House, a sophomore at Sauk Valley (Ill.) Community College, averaged about 15 points, nine rebounds and three blocked shots per game this year.

Elliott averaged about six points and six rebounds this season in Savannah, Ga., for a team in Georgia's largest classification that lost only two games and featured other Division I prospects.

Southeast signed 6-9 forward Waylon Jones from Albany Tech Community College in Albany, Ga., during the early period. Jones missed his sophomore season with a stress fracture, meaning he will have three years of eligibility with the Redhawks.

Considering that Southeast technically only had three available scholarships following this past season, and that I expect Southeast to eventually sign more players than the above four, it's a certainty that at least a few current players with eligibility remaining won't return.

Former Southeast basketball player Steve Tappmeyer was hired as the University of Missouri-St. Louis men's basketball coach last week after 21 seasons at Northwest Missouri State as he switches Division II programs.

Tappmeyer had great success at Northwest Missouri, leading the Bearcats to 10 Division II tournament appearances. They reached the Elite Eight in 2002 and 2004.

Tappmeyer played basketball at Southeast for two seasons -- he earned honorable-mention all-MIAA honors in 1977-78 -- and was later a graduate assistant coach for the then-Indians.

Tappmeyer pursued the Southeast coaching job both times it opened since the university moved to Division I, but he never was selected as a finalist.

At Missouri-St. Louis, Tappmeyer replaces Chris Pilz, who was 77-114 in seven seasons.

What was among the best NCAA men's basketball tournaments ever fittingly ended with a thrilling title game.

The Butler almost did it.

Butler, from the nondescript Horizon League, almost capped its fairytale-like season with a national championship.

Duke denied the Bulldogs by holding on for a 61-59 victory, but that didn't detract from the amazing show the small university from Indianapolis put on.

Take Butler out of the picture and the Horizon League really isn't all that much different from the Ohio Valley Conference, which makes you wonder if an OVC team can ever make a similar tournament run.

Marty Mishow is a sports writer for the Southeast Missourian.

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