Published: January 20, 2014
Cheyenne Mountain basketball coach J'on St. Clair wanted his senior star Ghassan Nehme to have the ball in his hands more - and who could blame him?
Nehme is the third-best scorer in the state, regardless of classification, averaging 26.1 points per game. So when St. Clair moved Nehme from shooting guard to point guard, it was just fine with the 6-foot-3 scoring machine.
"I was very excited because that's my natural position and that's what I'll be playing at Montana State," said Nehme, who will play college ball in Bozeman, Mont., next season. "I feel more comfortable at the point and it allows me to take pressure off my teammates. My teammates trust me enough to be the quarterback and make the right decisions at all times."
The plan is working extremely well for Nehme and the 8-3 Indians. Over three games last week, he scored 97 points and led his team to two big wins, including a 54-53 win at Doherty in which Nehme hit the game-winner with five seconds left.
"I've never coached a kid who can put up the kind of points he can," said St. Clair, who has coached several very good teams in the past. "He's one of the best offensive players I've ever coached or coached against, and that includes Reggie Jackson. As far as overall skill, he could be one of the best to come out of the Springs in a long time and I think he'll be very successful at Montana State."
Comparing Nehme to Jackson, who starred at Palmer before heading to Boston College and eventually the NBA's Oklahoma City Thunder, is high praise.
But Nehme showed just how explosive he can be when he scored a career-high 43 points in a 77-56 win over Lewis-Palmer. He also put up 32 points and seven rebounds in a 70-68 loss to Sand Creek before putting the dagger in Doherty.
"To be honest, it's the biggest shot I've taken in my high school career, and it was awesome to be able to win at Doherty because it's a hard place to play," Nehme said. "It was a fun game and I got a win over some of my buddies I play club ball with."
St. Clair says that when he saw Nehme pull up for the winning jumper, he thought it would go in "about 70 percent of the time." He knows how important Nehme is to the team, and says he may be as important to the Indians as any player on any team.
"Just like Sand Creek is going to go as far as Dylan Clark takes them, it's the same way with Ghassan and us," St. Clair said. "He can go off for 40 at any time and he can also create shots for his teammates. I think the best thing we could've done is move him to point guard. In the long run, it's going to make us better because he has very good vision and knows how to organize the other players and get them in the right spots."
Nehme has big expectations for his last playoff run as an Indian. He's fueled by the fact that his little brother Christian - who won a state title in soccer earlier this school year - has a championship ring. Christian has moved to shooting guard for Cheyenne Mountain, and likes to show off his ring to his brother.
"Playing with my brother on varsity was always a dream and I want to win the first basketball state championship for Cheyenne Mountain," Nehme said. "It's motivational that he has a ring on his finger every day. We always talk junk and everyone gives it to me that my brother has a ring and I don't."