Melvin Hits 1,000-Point Milestone for Stuart Hoops, Primed to Lead Tartans on Historic Postseason Run
GRAND MOMENT: Stuart Country Day School basketball player Nia Melvin (holding ball) celebrates with her teammates and family after she hit the 1,000-point milestone in a 79-21 win over Immaculate Conception on January 28. Last Thursday, junior guard Melvin added to her total, tallying 26 points as Stuart defeated Moorestown Friends 73-40 to post its 10th straight win and improve to 14-6. Stuart hosts Bound Brook on February 10 before starting play in the state Prep B tournament where it is seeded first and will host a semifinal game on February 16.
By Bill Alden
For Nia Melvin, hitting the 1,000-point milestone last week for the Stuart Country Day basketball team was a goal that had been on her mind for years.
“It is something I have definitely been looking forward to before I even started playing basketball at Stuart,” said junior guard Melvin, who scored 21 points in a 79-21 win over Immaculate Conception on January 28 to pass the 1,000-point mark.
“It is something I wanted to accomplish and I am really proud to have made it.”
Melvin knows that she couldn’t do it alone. “My teammates were definitely helping me get there because they knew how close I was,” said Melvin, who entered the game with 983 points.
“It was really important to me to have my parents there. That is something they have instilled in me, teaching me basketball and to always play the best that I can. It was really big for us as a family.”
Last Thursday, junior guard Melvin added to her total, tallying 26 points as Stuart defeated Moorestown Friends 73-40 to post its 10th straight win and improve to 14-6.
“I was in my rhythm and in the zone,” said the 5’9 Melvin, who also had seven rebounds and seven assists along with five steals in the win.
“As a team and individually, we have been trying to step it up before MCTs and Prep Bs.”
Heading into her junior season, Melvin has honed both her on-court and leadership skills.
“I worked on conditioning, ball handling and then my shot,” said Melvin. “More than just scoring, it is important that I step into a leadership role, talking to my teammates and communicating with them.”
Stuart head coach Justin Leith credits Melvin with impacting the program through her personality and drive.
“First and foremost, she is a great kid and that is my favorite thing about Nia,” said Leith.
“The word to describe Nia is kind; she is a great person. You almost get the opposite of that on the basketball court. She is relentless on both sides of the floor. Even though she has had a stellar career thus far, she is continuing to improve.”
That improvement has been reflected in Melvin’s increased production over the last few weeks.
“Her shooting is more consistent; she has always been a very good shooter, but she is pushing to be that great shooter, especially recently,” added Leith.
“She picked up right where she left off. She was 17 points away from 1,000 in Tuesday and she was aware. I thought it was going to happen Thursday but in typical Nia fashion; it was like oh 17 with a blank face, I am going to get it.”
In the win over Moorestown Friends, broke game open with 25-10 second quarter as it picked up its 10th straight victory and improved to 14-6.
“Looking at their film, their pressure was going to be something that we had to be aware of,” said Leith.
“They were long and in the other games that we saw, they pressed a lot. We were ready for that but we also knew that we could do the same thing to them. That was the game plan and it really stepped up and ramped up in the second quarter.”
The Tartans have stepped up their game since going 1-4 at the Nike Tournament of Champions in Phoenix, Ariz. in December.
“We want to be an elite level program; we still are not there yet but we went to Arizona and we played the best,” said Leith.
“We played the No. 2 team in the country, we played a couple of top teams from Canada.”
With Stuart hosting Bound Brook on February 10 before starting play in the state Prep B tournament where it is seeded first and will host a semifinal game on February 16, Leith knows his players need to be at their best to achieve the team’s postseason goals.
“We continue to get better. We won out in January; that was one of our goals but we don’t need to get full of ourselves by any means,” said Leith, whose program has won two straight Prep B crowns.
“It really doesn’t mean much unless we use that momentum going into the counties and states. We want to win both, that is the goal and we have to put the work in so we can put ourselves in positions to do that. We can’t think that we can cruise to that because that is not going to happen.”
Melvin, for her part, believes that the Tartans are ready to put in that hard work. “Since Phoenix, I would say that we changed our mentality,” said Melvin.
“We realized how seriously we have to take every practice, every game and putting everything into our hustle and effort. It was a reality check.”