May 22, 2016

Conkin heading East

Kevin McCarthy

photo of Miles Tention

Nicolette Conkin is the epitome of the far-reaching positive effects of the basketball experience. The Homestead High and West Valley Basketball Club (WVBC) player became obsessed with basketball early on, developed as both a player and person throughout the process and now is heading off to operate at the point for Utica College in upstate New York.

Reversing the direction and gender of the famous "go west young man" exhortation, Conkin helmed the Homestead High team this season, a program that finished 23-3 overall plus 12-0 in the El Camino Division of the Santa Clara Valley Athletic League.

One factor in such a positive season can be found in this compliment offered by Coach Bob Bramlett, who operates the girls side of the WVBC: "Nicolette is the smartest point guard I've ever been around."

In a query regarding the best elements of her skills set, Conkin touched upon this intelligence with "My [basketball] IQ and my passing" and then added "also my intensity. I can't stand losing."

What in her game appealed to the Utica staff? "They liked how I push the ball and handle it in transition. I love to run. When I get a rebound, I'm going."

As to leadership, Conkin said, "I'm very verbal. A part of my basketball IQ is knowing my teammates because you can't treat every player the same way."

She is also quick to credit others in her hoops journey. "Bob taught me how to work hard. I learned what I was doing wasn't going to get me college." Jessica Kellogg is another mentor. The former San Jose State University player who played overseas and coached earlier at Homestead High "taught me how to see the floor. She helped me learn the game and what my teammates will do at what time on the floor."

Another Conkin quote about her progression illustrates her basketball mindset. It's "shoot less and do more with the basketball." Call it a moment of realization that is the ultimate of enlightenment for any player but especially so for a point.

What will be fascinating to follow next season is that the top returnee in assists for Utica averaged 2.4 per game last season. Unsaid or otherwise, Conkin will be tasked with raising that number as well as the team's assists total.

Two events that occurred during her campus visit sold Conkin on Utica. Besides the usual elements of viewing a game as well as a practice, she stayed in a dorm and ate in the cafeteria which replicated the everyday college experience. Plus, the future physical therapist enjoyed a one-on-one interview with the head of the physical therapy department.

The Conkin story wouldn't be complete without including this anecdote. When Bramlett, with the larger picture in mind, had a West Valley player encountering difficulties in practice move from the floor to watching from the bleachers, Conkin was spurred into action. In her mind, the entire team was going to remain as one either in the bleachers or on the basketball floor. She said, "we're in this together as a team because we're like a family at West Valley." It was an essential moment of development for the team's culture as well as in Conkin's leadership and influence.