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JU Hoops in 2021: Keep Calm and Kevion

Redshirt junior transfer has proved to be the Dolphins' X-Factor in 3-1 ASUN start

Tony Jasick's JU men's basketball program is off to a 3-1 start in conference play in 2021, their best start since 2011. But none of their three, ASUN wins have come easy. Each one has had a dramatic finish -- whether a ferocious comeback or a game-winning shot.

And redshirt junior Kevion Nolan has been at the center of every one of them.

"I think he plays with a certain confidence about him that other guys feed off of," Jasick said. 

The breakdown game by game:

The ASUN opener at Kennesaw State saw the 'Phins down 14 in the second half. They would end the game on a 16-5 run -- 14 of which were scored by Nolan, including a dagger-three to make it a two-score advantage with 22 seconds left.

The very next night, Nolan hit the game-tying shot with 1:43 to play against the Owls, and then, clinging to a one-point lead with 13 seconds remaining, another dagger-three point shot.

Then came Game One of this year's River City Rumble -- and the closest Nolan has gotten to a buzzer beater. With JU trailing by two and with six seconds on the clock, Nolan drained the go-ahead three. UNF failed to score on the ensuing, final possession. 

You don't have to be a basketball fan to tell: Nolan has the clutch gene. 

"Confidence has been my word for 2020. Really," Nolan said. 

But he hasn't always been this swaggy, confident shooter. 

Nolan became a starter on the Sacred Heart Catholic High School varsity squad as a seventh grader. With plenty of the other starters also middle school or underclassmen age, Nolan's squad took its lumps. 

"My confidence was swayed back and forth because I was always smaller than the other guys I was competing against," he reflected.

But Kevion kept shooting. 

He and that once-young, Cardinals line-up would lead the school to three straight State Championships (2015-2017). Nolan signed with nearby Samford, but found himself back at the bottom of the totem pole.

"I played so one dimensional. I would go out timid," he said. "My confidence was back at zero."

Kevion kept shooting.

He entered the Transfer Portal and ended up reconnecting with one of the schools that initially recruited him: JU. In his search to find a team where he was a more, primary part of the offense, Nolan found his next home in the River City. However, this route would require him to sit-out the entire, 2019-2020 season due to transfer. It was another time period that tested Nolan's confidence and dedication; he credits his family for helping him stay focused.

Finally ready to return to the court once more, Nolan suffered a left knee injury two weeks before the 2020 season began. He would miss the first eight games of the season.

Two months later: you'd never know Nolan suffered that significant injury. You'd never know how many times his confidence had been tested.

Beause Kevion kept shooting. 

"I would describe [my confidence] as through the roof.... I want those moments because I know I can come through in them"

He's put in the work. 

All he needed was a shot.