Men’s basketball topped George Mason for its first Atlantic 10 win Wednesday, but another moment stuck out to freshman guard Jameer Nelson Jr. and freshman forward Jamison Battle.
Freshman forward Chase Paar was hit by a screen, and the gum he was chewing flew out of his mouth. Nelson Jr. scanned the court and locked eyes with Battle, who burst into laughter. The moment was insignificant to the game’s outcome, but the duo said it demonstrates a closeness that has helped them thrive in their first year as Colonials.
Nelson Jr. and Battle have been staples to head coach Jamion Christian’s team, serving as two of the three players to see action in all 18 games this season. The two hold three A-10 Rookie of the Week honors, making them the first pair of freshmen to receive the nods since Joe McDonald and Kevin Larsen earned the award seven years ago.
Battle said the moments in games when he can “laugh and goof around” with Nelson Jr. represent their connectivity off the court as roommates and friends.
“I think having my roommate on the court with me, it just boosts my morale,” Battle said. “He believes in me and I believe in him, and I think it’s something I’m lucky to have.”
Battle has been a force from three-point range, hitting a triple in every game this season and leading the squad with a .416 three-point shooting percentage. His sharpshooting has led him to average 12.3 points per game. In conference play, his average jumps to 16 points per game.
“Shooters don’t get shots if they don’t get the ball, and I think my teammates have really helped me,” Battle said. “Coach has helped me. He believes in me. He’s given me this opportunity as a freshman and I think not a lot of freshmen get the opportunity right away.”
Nelson Jr. said Battle was criticized for his rebounding coming into college, but he has since snatched a team-leading 7.6 rebounds in conference play to shut down commentators.
“He’s just going against a lot of adversity,” Nelson Jr. said. “In high school, people said a lot of things about him. ‘You can’t rebound, you can’t do certain things,’ but he’s proved people wrong. He’s been a crazy scoring threat for us.”
Nelson Jr. was tasked with handling the ball from the get-go, and he has proven to be an effective scorer and passer, averaging 10.1 points per game on .389 shooting from the field and ranking second on the team with 38 assists. On defense, Nelson Jr.’s quick hands have disrupted opponents’ passing and earned him a team-leading 33 steals.
Battle said Nelson Jr. took on the challenge at the point position and has grown to be a jack-of-all-trades through shooting, driving to the rim and defending to help the team win.
“I just remember seeing him in the summer,” Battle said. “I know coming in, point guard, there’s a lot you have to know. As a freshman, I think he’s just grown tremendously, the right reads, he’s just becoming a better player.”
The bond between the two freshmen extends off the court and into the residence hall room they share. Battle said the two have stayed up until the early morning “just talking.” Nelson Jr. added that the pair grabs dinner together at least five times a week, frequenting their go-to spot Wawa.
“We’re always talking about basketball, whether it’s in the dorm or in the locker room,” Battle said. “We’re always talking about something. We’re always connecting.”
Nelson Jr. added that their bond as roommates and friends causes them to hold each other to a high standard and feed off each other in games and practice.
“We get on each other a lot, but it’s because we love each other,” Nelson Jr. said. “We want to be the best at whatever we’re trying to do. We just work and work off each other. I think we keep each other at a certain standard. We hold each other accountable.”
Battle has started the most games of any Colonial this season, racking up 17 starts. He also leads the team in minutes, logging 34.6 per game. Nelson Jr. averages 28.1 minutes per game and has started 16 contests. Christian said Battle and Nelson Jr. earned their playing time in practice and make contributions to the squad on both offense and defense.
“We really value guys that can shoot the ball, and Jamison Battle is obviously one of the best shooters in our league,” Christian said. “We value guys like Jameer that are great defensively and can shoot the ball but also make really dynamic plays in the lane.”
Christian added that the duo was a “good combination” for the program’s future and their bond off the court created a support system for the young players.
“We’re excited to have them both on the floor together,” Christian said. “It’s great that they’re roommates and they have the chance to bond together and work together and just go through these trials and tribulations together. They have someone to lean on.”
Belle Long contributed reporting.
This article appeared in the January 21, 2020 issue of the Hatchet.