2011-12 Basketball: Gallagher column: Salisbury's Nunn on the Division I radar

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 22, 2011

SALISBURY — How can you go from averaging 0.7 points to being offered Division I scholarships in just a two-year span?
Tony Nunn can tell you.
In one of the most unusual basketball stories in Rowan County history, Nunn, a 6-foot-7 junior at Salisbury has put himself on the national map in the blink of an eye.
How in the world did it happen?
Salisbury coach Jason Causby says it’s his height, his skill level and him being hungry enough to shed weight.
“Coaches love his upside,” Causby said.
It was Nunn’s backside that needed improving when he first joined Causby’s varsity as a 6-6 freshman.
“I weighed 300,” he confessed sheepishly.
He seldom played and when Causby went over to North Hills to coach basketball, Nunn followed. He became Causby’s project and they have both returned to Salisbury.
“He stayed on me hard,” the personable Nunn said, “and I really appreciate it. “He told me some people didn’t believe in me and I took it to heart and started working. If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t be the Tony I am today.”

The Tony of today has college coaches drooling.
“Last week alone, N.C. State came to watch him on Tuesday,” Causby said. “Wednesday it was Virginia. Cincinnati came on Friday. Miami was here in September.”
Nunn, now a burly 250 pounder, reports Charlotte, Wichita State and Cincinnati have already offered. Miami, Clemson, Oklahoma, LSU, Tennessee, N.C. State, Wake Forest, Virginia, Virginia Tech and Boston College are among those showing strong interest. He isn’t getting tired of the attention, either. He loves the fact his name is on ESPN’s list of top juniors in the country. He’s No. 19 in the state.
“There’s a little pressure,” Nunn said. “There’s going to be more coaches coming to our games. But I’m not really concentrating on that right now. I’m more about the season and getting used to my teammates.”

Playing private school ball last year took Nunn to some elite tournaments, one in Charlotte, where he played well enough to catch the eye of Charlotte Royals’ AAU coach Rod Seaford.
Playing in tournaments across the nation with the Royals was good for the eye test. Coaches saw his inside post moves, his dunking ability and that impressive 7-2 wing span. They began jumping on board the “Flying Nunn” bandwagon.
He went to a showcase in Greensboro and graded out as the top performer. That picked up the visits.
“He’s a throwback big guy,” Causby said. “He plays with his back to the basket. He can post up, box out and rebound. In warmups, sometimes you’ll see big men shooting threes. You’ll never see Tony take a 3-point shot. He’s an old-school wide-body.”
Causby says Nunn has developed a mid-range jumper, “but Tony would rather knock heads with people down low. He’s going to try and dunk everything he can.”
Nunn remembers one showcase where he was up against 6-11 and 7-foot foes.
“I was dunking on everybody,” he laughed. “(The Royals) taught me more post moves. I’m a good-sized post player. I use my strength to my advantage.”

He loved the reaction when he returned to the Salisbury High halls, especially from his teammates.
“Everybody was shocked,” Nunn said. “I got even better over the summer and they were like, ‘Oh my God.’ ”
That’s what some of the college recruiters must be saying. They all feel they’ve found a diamond in the rough. It’s Causby’s job to keep Nunn level-headed. It’s easy to forget he’s only a junior.
“We talk every day about humility and staying grounded,” Causby said. “The hard part for him is over. I told Tony, ‘You’re the easy one. They’re coming here.’ ”
College recruiters have decided they would like an early commitment.
“They’re not putting a choke hold on me or anything,” Nunn chuckled, “but they want me to. I’m going to wait until the end of my summer and then I’ll commit.”

Nunn admits he has always been a North Carolina fan, and that he has shaken hands with Roy Williams. “But I don’t think they’re recruiting me.”
He does have a couple of favorites.
“I like Charlotte and Miami a lot,” he said.
It’s not a problem of trying to get him found,” Causby said. “He’s on everybody’s radar.”
Everybody’s radar but the fans in Rowan County. With all of the state titles and success here, that’s a tough bunch to impress. Remember, the last time local fans watched the big fella, he was averaging 0.7 points.
That’s why no one flinched when West Rowan’s Keshun Sherrill was picked as the preseason player of the year in the county. Sherrill has proven himself. Nunn knows he has to the same to the same to earn simliar respect.
“They can decide for themselves when they see me,” he grinned.

Contact Ronnie Gallagher at 704-797-4287 or rgallagher@salisburypost.com.