Following a freshman season that saw him play in 32 contests, including five starts, WKU forward Nigel Snipes was forced to the bench by an ACL injury prior to the start of his second season on The Hill and struggled to gain traction during the past seasons. Now a redshirt senior, Snipes has had higher expectations placed upon him by head coach Ray Harper.
A product of Marietta (Ga.) Wheeler, Snipes has shown flashes during his Hilltopper career, including scoring a then career-high 15 points, with eight rebounds at Minnesota last season, but hasn't been able to make his presence felt on the floor on a consistent basis. As the team prepared for the 2015-16 season with a roster loaded with new faces, Snipes started to display consistency and determination in practice and intra-squad scrimmages.
"I think Nigel, for the first time, is really ready to step out of that shadow," Harper said on media day. "I’m happy for him for how he’s played, how he’s worked this summer. I think he’s never looked at himself as a leader. He came in the same time as George [Fant] and those guys. He was kind of content to stay in the background and in the shadow. He’s going to step out of that shadow. He’s had some games in the past where he’s looked great, and there’s been days in practice where you’re like ‘wow,’ but he’s not always been able to translate that on a consistent basis. I think that’s coming, and we need it desperately from him."
During the team's two exhibition outings, Snipes was given ample opportunity to come out of the shadow and proved to be ready to contribute, averaging nine points and 5.5 rebounds in the two wins.
On Saturday night, in WKU's season-opener, Snipes was called off the bench early and didn't leave the floor much during the 97-77 win over visiting Campbellsville. His 27 minutes of game time was second to only Fredrick Edmond, but his hot hand and defensive efforts fueled a career-best outing. He finished with a career-high 24 points on 8 of 13 shooting, including connecting for career-high five three-pointers. He also added three rebounds and a pair of steals.
“I think it was said on the bench, one of the assistant coaches said this couldn’t have been scripted better. He’s probably our hardest worker, our most committed kid since we got back to school in August, and he had his best game to start the season. I expected Nigel to play well because of what I have seen in practice. Did I know he was going to go out and get 24? No. I think the thing he has finally been able to do is play fearless and with a lot confidence. I’m happy for him. We’re going to need him to have a good year. He’s off to a good start.”
It marked just the sixth time that Snipes has scored in double-figures.
"I was just trying to do what coach said and be aggressive, and that’s what I went out there to do," said Snipes.
The Hilltoppers return to action on Wednesday with a trip to Nashville, Tenn., to face host Belmont. Tip-off is slated for 6:00 p.m. at the Curb Event Center.