Madison’s Jade Nutley is the Madison Courier Girls Basketball Player of the Year. (Photo by Nina Campbell Photography)
Madison’s Jade Nutley is the Madison Courier Girls Basketball Player of the Year. (Photo by Nina Campbell Photography)
Everybody knows that Jade Nutley can play ball. Ever since she was a little girl she has been the best player on her team and has drawn the eyes of college scouts for years.

But it’s more than Nutley’s skills that set her apart. It’s also the leadership, knowledge and desire to get better that has made the Madison Consolidated High School junior one of the best players in southeastern Indiana.

“She’s a great player. She’s one of those players that loves to come in and work, not just during practice but before practice and after practice,” Madison coach Sonja Bowyer said. “That says what kind of player you are. If you’re willing to work outside of the season, not just in the season, that’s coachable. She’s always thinking about the game.”

Nutley showcased all of her skills during an impressive junior campaign and she was the easy pick for this year’s Madison Courier Girls Basketball Player of the Year.

At 6-foot-1, Nutley is a force inside and can dominate foes on the low block. But it’s her ability to see the floor, shoot the jumper and get the ball to the rim that puts her on a different level.

“Coming off my sophomore year I was super excited about coming back and playing,” Nutley said. “I think our first few games it took a bit more adjusting to get me back into the flow of things, but after it got started, I was really happy with the way the season turned out.”

Nutley averaged just under 15 points a game and has both the career scoring and rebounding records at Madison well within her sight. She will enter her senior season with 966 career points, just 585 points off Brittney Myers’ school record, and 670 career rebounds, which is 250 behind Olivia Crozier’s career record. It’s possible that she could end up not only with both records, but with over 1,000 in each.

Not that Nutley cares about records. Always the consummate teammate, she has always valued wins over individual numbers.

“She’s very, very down to Earth. She doesn’t showboat, she’s not the type of player that talks trash,” Bowyer said. “She’s the type of player that does what the team needs and she’s one of the players who has realized that she doesn’t need to go out and score 30 points. We’re doing it as a team. We’re winning as a team and losing as a team.”

Nutley has been a Madison Courier First Team selection in each of her first two seasons but, ironically, it was an injury last summer that took her game to another level.

Hobbled with a bad ankle, Nutley spent Madison’s summer basketball schedule watching games rather than playing and her coach said that experience brought a new dimension to her star’s game.

“With her being on the bench and getting to see that side of it, it allowed her to see all sides of the game, not just her part,” Bowyer said. “There were certain situations during the summer where she was talking to the players about needing to shoot it with enough time to get a rebound, just thinking that way. If she can vocalize that on the floor, that’s just huge as a coach to have somebody who is that smart and can communicate it to other players on the floor.”

For Nutley, the biggest adjustment has been finding the perfect balance between being an inside presence and an all-around player. While she plays in the middle for Madison, once she gets to college she will be more of a small forward. As a result, she has been trying to develop those other skills that she will need in order to succeed.

It’s not been easy adjusting to the two roles, but Nutley is getting better at it every time she steps on the floor.

“It depends on who you’re playing, if it needs to be more of an outside or inside game. It’s a different game playing against Jeffersonville’s Nan (Garcia) or playing against someone from New Washington,” Nutley said. “It’s a different game for me as well as the team. I come in with a different expectation every game, depending upon who the opponent is.”

“Finding that balance is something that is going to take a while. I think we found a better balance this year. She’s got a great outside shot and she’s got a great drive, but she just needs to have confidence in what she’s doing,” Bowyer said. “She’s proven that when she wants to, she can get on the block and go. There are certain plays that we draw up for her and she just goes and does it. Having that confidence in knowing when to do things, when to go to the block or when we need an outside shot, I think she’s developed that. She’s going to be a senior next year and she knows when we need a three and when we need to dump it down inside.”

She’s also had to deal with her growing reputation. She spent most of the season dealing with double teams and on one memorable occasion, was even triple-teamed nearly the entire game.

“I honestly didn’t even realize that I was getting triple-teamed until one point I turned around and I’m like, I can’t even get out of this,” Nutley said, laughing. “I had posted up on the block and I literally had three girls on me. I can’t even do anything. I was spinning in circles and there was no place to go.”

But it’s facing players like the Penn State-bound Garcia that drive Nutley to greater heights. While she admits that it is “nerve-wracking” to play in front of Division I scouts, she has had some of her best games in those situations.

“I’d rather not know that they’re there, but at the same time I would like to know that they’re there because it’s like a mind game,” Nutley said. “At the New Washington game, I knew Xavier was going to be there and I wanted to set some goals for myself that I should set all of the time, not just when coaches are there. It’s what you do when people aren’t looking rather than when they are looking.”

Nutley has had her share of Division I suitors and says that she is nowhere near a decision. She plans to use this summer to improve her skills and hopes to make a choice by the fall.

In the meantime she’s excited about what her Cubs can do next season. Although the team loses two starters to graduation off a 14-win club, Madison has plenty coming back and a strong freshman class coming in. Nutley knows that the only thing that is missing is confidence.

“If we come in knowing that we can win, we could have won six more games this year, definitely,” Nutley said. “I think a lot of it is just in our heads. I feel like if we come in with the right mindset, we can compete with anyone. We proved ourselves with a lot of teams.”