Javyn Nicholson looks to add to Maya Moore's legacy at Collins Hill
Inside a frame and preserved in glass at the entrance to the Collins Hill gym hangs a signed jersey once worn by Maya Moore. A second frame inside the Suwanee, Georgia, gym recognizes what Moore helped the Lady Eagles accomplish as a senior in 2006-07: a 31-0 record and a No. 1 national ranking.
Moore went on to win two NCAA national titles, two Olympic gold medals and four WNBA championships. She was the No. 1 pick in the 2011 WNBA draft and is already a five-time WNBA All-Star.
For the players who now spend hours in that gym, those frames serve as reminders of Moore's greatness and as inspiration to soar.
"Maya Moore is one of the best women's basketball players in the world, and she left her mark and her legacy at Collins Hill," said Javyn Nicholson, a 6-foot-3 junior forward. "To know she once walked these hallways is amazing. It puts pressure on us because we're trying to do what she did."
Nicholson, who has committed to the University of Georgia, has lived up to that pressure so far. She is the No. 33 player in the espnW HoopGurlz Super 60 for the 2019 class. Last season, she averaged 11.6 points, 9.2 rebounds, 1.9 blocks, 1.6 steals and 1.4 assists, helping the Eagles to a 25-3 record and a berth in the quarterfinals of Georgia's state playoffs, in which they fell to state champion Westlake.
"Javyn can do everything," Collins Hill coach Brian Harmon said. "She has great hands and feet. She passes exceptionally well for a big girl. She can face up and take games over. She's a pro, if I'm being real with you."
Kim Sipple, a single mother who has raised Nicholson, said her daughter's life has a similarity to Moore's in another way, beyond their shared alma mater.
When Nicholson was in fifth grade, she and her mother left Colorado. They settled in Georgia and, ultimately, at Collins Hill, much like Moore and her family made the move from Missouri.
Sipple, who is 5-foot-11, said her daughter's foray into basketball was virtually preordained. Javyn's father, Kelvin Nicholson, is 6-foot-8, and even though he wasn't a college or pro athlete, his height was passed down to his daughter.
"She had no choice but to be tall," Sipple said.
When Nicholson was 3, she found a basketball in the cul-de-sac just outside her house and taught herself to dribble. Her mother soon put her in a local basketball league, and Nicholson -- much bigger than the other kids -- played the sport like a linebacker.
"She would tackle kids," Sipple said with a laugh. "And she didn't pass the ball to anyone."
Nicholson has come a long way since then. After moving to Georgia, her mother, who is a hair stylist, found out from one of her clients about a basketball event an hour away.
Sipple took her daughter to the event, and that's where they met Harmon, who was an AAU coach at the time. Nicholson joined forces with the coach and his daughter, point guard Bria Harmon, and the friendship has lasted. In fact, while in elementary school, Harmon and Nicholson led FBC Young Guns to a top-four finish at a national tournament in Tennessee.
Then, just before Nicholson began her freshman year of high school, Brian Harmon was hired as the Collins Hill girls' basketball coach.
"Only God could have orchestrated all that," said Sipple, who at that time was considering enrolling Javyn at Norcross or Archer, two rival Georgia high schools. "Everything fell into place."
The 2017-18 Collins Hill team was led in part by 6-foot-4 post player Jada Rice, who has signed with NC State, and 6-foot forward Jaron Stallworth, who signed with Mercer. Next season, Nicholson will be one of the senior leaders along with Bria Harmon, who has committed to Purdue.
Nicholson has a 3.3 GPA and is interested in studying sports management and maybe becoming a coach. At one point, she went with Bria Harmon on her Purdue visit and was interested in the Boilermakers.
Ultimately, however, Nicholson decided that going to college an hour away from home was the right distance for her. She picked the Lady Bulldogs in August 2017, choosing them over dozens of other offers.
"At first, I wanted to leave because I've lived in Georgia the past six or seven years," Nicholson said. "I wanted to have that true college experience. I wanted to meet new people.
"But it came down to the people at Georgia. With Georgia's campus being so close, I got to create a bond with the coaches, and they were easy to talk to during the recruiting process. With other coaches, it was stressful, but with Georgia it was always a smooth conversation."
The connection became so strong that Nicholson was upset during any game in which a Georgia coach was absent.
As for her senior year, Coach Harmon said he wants Nicholson to continue to mature mentally and to get in supreme shape physically so she can fulfill all of her potential.
Even so, comparing anyone to Maya Moore isn't fair.
"Maya's desire to be the best is unlike anything I've ever seen," Harmon said. "Maya's mentality is like Michael Jordan. I've never seen a kid who wanted to win so much and was so enthusiastic and so positive."
Nicholson said she has nothing but respect for Moore, but there's something else, too.
"We want to create our own legacy," Nicholson said. "We want to add to how she left it at Collins Hill."