Britt, Part II: The Road Back

MOUTH OF WILSON, Va. – Free from the burden of recruiting, and with a spot reserved at the school he always wanted to attend, Nate Britt began his junior year at Gonzaga College High School poised for a big season.

There were some high scoring totals along the way -- such as the 30-point, 5-assist performance against Central Catholic in December, and the 25.3 scoring average over a competitive four-game conference stretch in February -- but he missed eight straight mid-season games with a calf injury and Gonzaga finished its season losing five of its last 10 games. At the time, he was the No. 18 player in the class of 2013, according to

It wasn't the big season Britt was hoping for and the disappointment continued into the travel circuit with D.C. Assault in the spring and summer.

Britt lost his high ranking, eventually settling at No. 70 – 52 spots lower than he'd been, the biggest drop in the class.

His standing in the basketball community wasn't the only thing he'd lost.

"When I came back from injury, my confidence was never the same," Britt explained. "That year, I didn't go to as many camps. With that and me not having a good summer on the circuit, it all added up and had a snowball effect. My confidence just dropped after that."

And so, after securing a scholarship to the school of his dreams and excelling against the best high school players in the country, Britt found himself, again, competing against a reputation.

This time, however, it was his own.

Britt's summertime struggles were the impetus for transferring to Oak Hill for his final season.

"I feel like coming here was a good thing for me, because I can build my confidence back up," he said. "I'm here and I'm starting with a clean slate. I want to try and achieve new goals and help us win a national championship."

One of the knocks on Britt over the summer was his tendency to appear passive at times. That perception is one Britt and his father, Nate Britt Sr., are aware exists.

"I love the game of basketball more than anything," said Britt. "My personality and my game are kind of laid back. I'm not an all over the place kind of guy. I do feel like sometimes I play to the level of my competition. That hurts me and is something I've been working on – playing every game like it's my last."

Added Oak Hill coach Steve Smith: "He's worked extremely hard here. His dad told me to stay on him, because the knock on him is that he might coast sometimes. He's not done that here. He's been a leader in the weight room and on the floor. I can't remember him even having a single bad practice where his effort wasn't good."

Smith, who has been the head coach at Oak Hill since 1983, said the school's unique travel schedule and rigorous academic requirements are the perfect preview for what his players will see in college.

"Our kids usually play as freshmen," he said. "They've already been away from home and that's usually the hardest part to get used to. They know how to take care of their academics, their other responsibilities, keep their other obligations and still perform on the court."

With freshman Marcus Paige getting a head start as the Tar Heels' starting point guard this season, there's no guarantee of how much time Britt will be given to perform on the court.

Still, he insists he's both comfortable with – and looking forward to – being in the backcourt with another highly-recruited point guard.

"Marcus was looking forward to me committing to UNC, just like I'm looking for the next point guard to commit after me – maybe Tyus (Jones) or Joel Berry," said Britt. "I think it's great to have more than one point guard on the team. Marcus can score and he can run the '1.' I can score and also run the '1,' just like Joel (Berry) and Tyus (Jones). When you have two heady guys that can handle and shoot out there at the same time, I think that's an advantage most teams don't have.

"I'm definitely comfortable with UNC getting another (point guard) in 2014," he said. "Kendall (Marshall) left earlier than people thought, so we don't know how long Marcus is going to be there. Say he leaves – then we have another point guard coming in and we can keep it moving. If anyone would get hurt, we wouldn't have to worry about not having a strong point guard to able to come in and fill that spot."

With all the change he's experienced over the course of a year, Smith believes Britt can finally focus.

"I don't think he's a lesser player, I think he's a better player than he was six months ago," Smith said. "It doesn't really matter at this point because he knows he's going to North Carolina. The main thing is to get ready to go to North Carolina. Some kids worry about rankings, offers, other players and all that stuff so much that it affects the way they play. Nate's not that type of kid."

"My confidence isn't fully back up, but it's coming back slowly," Britt said. "Coach Smith and my teammates have confidence in me and I think that's what carries me through all of these games."

EDITOR'S NOTE: Four days after Inside Carolna traveled to Oak Hill for this story, Nate Britt was diagnosed with a torn meniscus. According to his father, Britt will stay home over winter break, where he'll undergo arthroscopic surgery and begin the rehabilitation process. The hope is to be back on the court by late January.

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