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Hempfield grad standing out for UPG women's basketball

| Thursday, Feb. 7, 2013, 8:55 p.m.

Emily Nelson didn't have to go far to continue her basketball career after graduating from Hempfield.

In fact, she only had to head three miles down the road to Pitt Greensburg.

Now in her freshman year, Nelson's decision to stay close to home appears to be a good one.

Nelson leads the Bobcats in scoring (10.5 ppg), assists (3.9) and steals (2.2), and her early success comes as no surprise to UPG coach Erin Eaton.

“I'm not at all surprised with how well she's doing,” Eaton said. “I think maybe some other people that recruited her are, but we wanted her because we thought in our system she was such an ideal fit.”

Nelson, who describes herself as an all-around player who can do a little bit of everything if needed, has fit well into the Bobcats' four-guard lineup. She has had plenty of memorable games this season after being permanently inserted into the starting lineup in just the second game of the year.

She broke the program's single-game assist record with 13 against Mount Aloysius on Nov. 28 and scored a season-high 30 points against Medaille on Jan. 6, among numerous other notable games.

“There are a lot of times where I just sit back and say, ‘Wow' ” Eaton said. “Emily's court vision for a freshman is just amazing. We have a lot of kids that get out in transition, and she always finds them.”

For Nelson, who led Hempfield to a 20-4 record as a senior last year and has played both guard positions as well as small forward at times this season, is happy to be playing so close to home.

“I really like being this close because my family can always come to the games,” she said. “I couldn't picture my family not being able to cheer me on every game.”

Despite being close to her family, every college freshman needs guidance to adjust to the college game. Nelson has been able to make a seamless transition both on and off the court.

“The coaches and all of my teammates have helped me a lot in adjusting. Everyone is very nice and very supportive,” Nelson said. “It's a lot different than high school. It's a lot more fast paced, and I just got used to it pretty quickly.”

Nelson's play has helped the young Bobcats, a team without a junior or senior on its roster, to a 10-12 overall record and an 8-7 mark in the Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference with just a few games left in the regular season.

While the psychology major has essentially made a seamless transition to the college game, she is still looking to improve on her skill set.

“She definitely wants to get better defensively,” Eaton said. “She wants to be our lockdown defender. She's just a competitive kid. She's a very good on-the-ball defender as it is now.”

While there are plenty of talented freshmen in the conference, Eaton believes that Nelson might just be the best of them all.

“I think she's a legitimate candidate for Newcomer of the Year in our conference,” Eaton said. “Emily does everything. Certainly, that's what I think makes her stand out from the rest of the young kids in the league.”

Alex Oltmanns is a freelance writer.

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