By Dave Brousseau
FORT LAUDERDALE – St. Thomas Aquinas High has always had a marquee brand boys basketball program, especially since winning a Florida Class 5A state title in 2001.
In stepped Ed Nelson, the former Aquinas All-State Player of the Year and Georgia Tech and UConn standout, when he was named to coach the Raiders when long-time coach Steve Strand stepped down.
Nelson brings a wealth top-notch college experience and nine years of international professional knowledge to help jump-start a program that struggled with a 10-12 this past season.
The challenge to rebuild will be complicated by the fact that 14 players graduated from last years’ team.
Though Nelson will be venturing into his first head coaching stint, he has learned plenty from Strand and his college and professional coaches.
“I retired four years ago, and I always came back in the summer,” said Nelson. “When I officially retired, I had more time on may hands. I was always in the gym and I owe a lot to coach Strand for kind of steering my ship in basketball at an early age.
It started with me just helping him out, buying into St. Thomas, buying back into the program and most importantly just helping these kids. It’s selfless work, but I love working with the kids.”
Nelson has implemented a strength and conditioning program and the kids are buying in.
As for the Raiders on the court, Nelson said he will explore all options. He stresses every day that Aquinas will play against the best and to match their opponents speed and quickness
“I’m a player’s coach and have lots of energy,” said Nelson. “I want a sense of fear as a coach. I’m pushing this and get the kids to their max potential.”
So where will Nelson start to implement a winning attitude against all opponents. He already has his players competed in summing camps as part of the rebuilding process.
“I’m working for next year and put us in a position to compete,” Nelson said. “We’re not going to be shy against nobody. We’re setting up the format for success because we have plenty of young talent.
I want to have the toughest team and toughest big players. If they can play big and dominate, we’ll be in good position to compete.”
Nelson’s professional experience during his playing career will play a role how he’ll educated the Raiders roster.
Nelson, 37, wants to put into place a professional setting such as practice, game planning and stats. Though he’s big on that, he plans to bring it down a few notches because it is the high school level. Still he wants the Raiders to play tough.
The transition from Strand to Nelson has been smooth.
The alumni embraced me on coming back along with the support from coach Strand,” said Nelson. “It was a good transition. It’s his program and I’m taking the boat for a while.”
Nelson credited Strand for much he has learned as a player.
“There’s no one better with his selfless effort on the court,” Nelson said. “He eats and sleeps Aquinas basketball. He’s still passionate. He is the Grandfather of the program.
I will never forget the countless hours he worked with me when I played here.”
Nelson made it clear Aquinas boys’ basketball is going in a new direction will steadily climb to once again be one of the powers in Broward county.”