Nimrod Hillard IV's family had, as many old timers around these parts say “a far piece” to travel to see him play basketball at Jacksonville College last season.
They will have an even greater distance to travel next year because Hillard signed a letter to attend Beaumont's Lamar University (NCAA Division I, Southland Conference) upon his graduation next month from JC.
Hillard, who came to JC after spending one season at the University of South Dakota, made the most of his time in East Texas.
The 2011 Wisconsin State Journal Player of the Year, averaged 8.6 points and 3.4 rebounds per game during the regular season for head coach Jody Bailey's Jags.
Hillard led the Jags in assists (136, 4.9 apg) and averaged 2.4 steals per night.
The 6-foot, 155-pound Hillard was recruited as a point guard by Lamar, according to Bailey.
“Lamar needed a point guard and they needed someone who could come in and play right away,” Bailey said. “The minutes are available for Nimrod (Hillard) and I'm excited that he will have the opportunity to go in there and compete right away for coach Pat Knight.”
Hillard was pursued by a litany of institutions, but Lamar's persistence paid off in the end.
“Lamar did the best job recruiting him (Hillard),” Bailey said. “They started out in January and gradually got stronger, more intense. And I think that's what set them apart.”
The Cardinals are one of the youngest teams in the NCAA Division I ranks.
Lamar finished 3-28 overall, 1-17 in Southland play, last season.
Hillard becomes the second D-I signee JC has turned out this spring (Kennedy Eubanks previously signed with Tennessee State University).
Hillard is the seventh Jag to join a D-I school since Bailey took over the reins of the program three years ago.
“This is just a start,” Bailey said. “We have several more kids that we are working with to find the best fit and we hopefully will have something to announce in that regard shortly.”