Sheets make it a family affair
Nicole Sheets can’t help it if she feels like the younger sister of Jon Sheets.
Though Nicole, who turned 18 over the weekend, is more than a year and a half older than Jon, there is a certain deference she feels to her brother, who did a star turn as the football quarterback last autumn, and currently hones his athletic wares on the basketball court.
Don’t misunderstand. Nicole is simply thrilled by her brother’s success. If she feels younger than he now and again, it does not mean she won’t assert herself in conversation or in battles over the television remote control, the usual family stuff.
And Nicole is hardly a slouch of an athlete herself. A senior captain of the Lady Miners basketball team, Sheets should prove to be every bit as instrumental to the success of the girls team as Jon will be to the boys team as both squads round their respective bends in Metro League play, with an eye toward the playoffs.
“With Nicole, it is like having a coach on the floor,” NU girls basketball coach Craig Strohm said. “She is always aware of the time and the score. Very rarely will you see us finish a close game without her on the floor.”
Nicole and Jon both play guard for their respective teams. Nicole is more of a two-guard, and more of a perimeter threat than her brother. While Nicole is more dangerous on the outside, coming off screens to shoot the trey, Jon moves best with the ball in his hands, slashing toward the rim for his points and assists.
“Nicole is a purer shooter than Jon, at this point,” NU boys basketball coach Jeff Dellis said. “I think Jon is more of a scorer who can create his own shots. He is a quick jumper.”
Nicole has been playing basketball since second grade, by her own estimation. She was a dancer in grade school, but switched to sports with her father’s encouragement.
“My dad was scared I’d become a cheerleader and a girly-girl,” Nicole said. “So he gave me a basketball and I fell in love with the game. And then it helped a lot when (Jon) played, because I just wanted to be like my brother.”
Jon smiles when asked about their long history of playing one-on-one basketball in free moments.
“She never beat me,” Jon said. “She’ll say she did, but she never did.”
“Maybe she has gotten me there,” he added. “We’ll have all sorts of competitions, but it is mostly encouragement to each other.”
Tuesday, Jon joined some classmates in a scrimmage with the girls team, a slight twist on a regular feature of a Lady Miners practice. Strohm said having some of the boys out there helps give his girls team a different look on the court than if the girls A and B teams simply practiced against each other.
“It was funny trying to watch them guard each other (Tuesday),” Strohm said. “Growing up with their dad coaching at various levels, they obviously know the game very well.”
Time permitting, Jon and Nicole will watch the other’s games, followed by a critique of the performance, if need be. The critiques sometimes foster discussions quite common in tone between siblings that close in age.
“We’ll argue about basketball all the time, but that has helped make me a tougher, stronger player,” Nicole said. “Last time, we were fighting about who scores the most points, and he was telling me I need to step it up and score more.”
“I’ll listen to her, because she knows what she is talking about,” Jon said of his sister’s insights. “I think the last time I saw her play, she shot a lot, so that is better.”
While their approach on the offensive end of the court differs somewhat, on the defensive end of the court, they both take pride in choking off an opponent’s offense at the point of attack. Strohm said Sheets averages 3.5 steals per contest with the Lady Miners this season.
“Nicole is tenacious,” Strohm said. “She can guard point guards, wings and post players because she is so smart. And she is probably the best post feeding guard that I’ve ever had.”
Jon got a late start on the basketball season, due in part to his own play on the football field. The starting quarterback on the 2001 Capital Athletic League runner-ups, Sheets helped the Miners reach the second round of the playoffs, earning all-CAL honors along the way.
“There weren’t many practices in which I could get my (basketball) shot back,” said Jon, who scored 20 points in a loss to Sacramento on Friday. “There were tournaments right after football, and that was really tough, but coach (Dellis) just let me keep playing to get back in the flow.”
As Nicole and Jon work over each other’s games, figuratively and literally, younger brother Ben, a freshman, will be left with the task of following the pair’s athletic legacies after they graduate from high school.
“I don’t think Ben really cares about legacies,” said Jon of his younger brother, who played football and is playing basketball this season.
“He plays sports for the fun, but he likes to draw and is an artsy kind of kid. I was surprised he played football, and he played in half the games, which was great.”
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