Ball is life: Junior leads basketball team to success as veteran player

Kaywin McCall

Walking into the gym on a cold Tuesday night, there’s a basketball pounding the floor and a crowd roaring at the game they’re watching. The Bryan High varsity boy’s basketball team is led by 6’2”, 180 pounds of pure toughness, junior Zach Nutall who averaged 18 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists last season as a sophomore, and is constantly improving his averages and the team’s success.

Zach has played basketball since he was four and he’s currently playing with Texas Pro which is an invite only Adidas organized team based out of Houston. He’s had the opportunity to play in front of hundreds of basketball coaches throughout the United States, including traveling to South Carolina, Las Vegas and New York. As he looks to his future and basketball, he relies heavily on the people who have helped him reach success including his dad and coaches.

“I’ve put in countless hours talking to my coach to find out what I need to do to be a leader on this team,” Zach said. “I usually watch film with my dad and watch specific players to see how they play. I also work on my game with some of my personal trainers, Coach Jones, and Coach Heinz.”

Zach’s consistent work ethic has shown throughout his time at Bryan High, earning him a spot on varsity as a freshman, which has given him the experience to lead the team.

“As a freshman the expectation was to see him play hard, get after it, and be coachable,” varsity boys basketball coach Chris Jones said. “He did that really well as a freshman and had the opportunity to learn. Then last year as a sophomore he came in and we asked him to spot shoot the ball for us. We asked him to shoot open shots and put it on the floor, and he did. “This past off-season he has added scoring off the dribble to his game, he has improved a lot and added the necessary pieces year-by-year.”

Not only is his hard work noticed by the coaches, but it has also rubbed off on other players on the team.

“Zach has grown over the past couple of years in his work ethic,” senior teammate Ross McGregor said. “I’ve seen him work harder and harder as each day comes. He expects a lot of the team and helps show this with his work ethic.”

Not only does Zach hold himself and his team accountable on the court, but he knows what is necessary inside of the classroom.

“My goals for myself are to lead the team off the court with my grades and on the court by working hard during practice.” Zach said. “I want to be a leader in every aspect I can.”

He has worked on his basketball game by adding new aspects to his game, making him more of a threat to opposing teams.

“We’d really like to see Zach score at a more efficient rate off of the floor, to make open jump shots and to put it on the floor and get to the basket and score some.” Jones said. “We’d like to see him draw fouls in situations and be more aggressive rebounding the ball.”

The basketball coaches give Zach a lot of responsibility in leading the team as the player with the most experience.

“Zach is the most veteran guy on the team,” Jones said “He’s just a junior but he’s been on varsity for three years, so he’s the most experienced guy on our roster right now. We expect him to lead by example because he’s been here, he’s played on the district championship team, and on two playoff teams, so he’s been around and knows what is expected of him. We expect him to do the right things, and to be a leader.”

Being a role model to the younger guys, Zach helps them with their game and helps hold them accountable on and off of the court.

“Zach has many qualities that make him a great leader, a few being his skill and how vocal he is,” Ross said. “He is also very vocal and calls people out when someone is not working hard or does something wrong. We, as a team, hold each other accountable in the classroom and on the court, and he does his part above and beyond in every aspect.”

If the team can continue to put in the time and effort, Zach believes they will see a lot of success as a result.

“My goals as a team is to be district champions,” Zach said. “And get a deep run in the playoffs and have the opportunity to play at state.”

The team is constantly working to improve and will keep working in order to go far in the playoffs.

“We have a lot of guys improving who are fired up to have the opportunity to get better.” Jones said. “We’re going to throw it all together and get after it everyday.”

Zach plans on taking advantage of his hard work and continue on playing at the next level. He has been been recruited by standout programs throughout the state.

“I plan on playing in college. I’ve had some great recruits come and watch me and talk to me over the phone, including Texas A&M, Texas State, University of Incarnate Word, and the University of North Texas,” Zach said. “I’ve learned that the game of basketball can take you far if you work hard and make you a better man.”