Pepsi-Cola Student Athlete of the Week: Tyler Nickel

Published: Mar. 30, 2022 at 9:49 PM EDT|Updated: Mar. 30, 2022 at 10:42 PM EDT
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HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) - Tyler Nickel is a star senior at East Rockingham High School.

“I wouldn’t be who I am today without basketball to define my hopes and dreams,” said Nickel.

This spring, Nickel broke the VHSL boys basketball all-time scoring record with 2909 career points for the Eagles. He will be continuing his career at the University of North Carolina this fall... and there was a specific moment when he knew he would be committing to the Tar Heels.

“They brought me a bunch of seafood,” Nickel explained. “I hadn’t even seen the gym... but I could have told you right then that I was going to North Carolina.”

While at East Rockingham High School, the standout forward earned offers to play for elite academies across the country. Yet Nickel chose to stay in public school and play in the Valley.

“Morally, staying here and representing my people was important to me, even when I’m at the top,” he said.

For head coach Carey Keyes, Nickel’s loyalty to the Eagles sets an example for the next generation of athletes in Elkton.

“I’m so thankful for his loyalty to me, our school, and our community,” said Keyes. “He stayed at a small school in the Shenandoah Valley and now he’s going to play at the University of North Carolina. That doesn’t happen very often.”

On the court, Nickel has unmistakable confidence as he rewrites the record books. However, four years in the spotlight does not come without struggle.

“There were some tough times with mental issues. Whether it’s internal or external, something is going to get to you at some point,” said Nickel. “It’s about seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.”

A week after graduation, Nickel will be heading to Chapel Hill, where he will have access to plenty of seafood... and a sports nutritionist.

“I’m not huge on vegetables, but we’ll be alright.”

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