All He Wanted Was A Chance
Feb. 22, 2005
By Jeff Mitchell
All he wanted was a chance. His quiet confidence demanded attention. His entertaining play turned heads.
His inspiring story will make you smile.
The flat, dirt playground in his family's backyard resembled a basketball court only because a goal was situated 10 feet above the ground. The wear and tear from the feet of neighborhood children created an oddly shaped basketball haven. Boundaries changed by the day; the sprinkling of rocks about the court acted as additional pesky defenders. But this familiar place in the tiny Mississippi town of Magnolia was where current Ole Miss senior point guard Cavadas Nunnery honed his skills.
"Our court was dirt and rocks, but I played on it all the time," says a smiling Nunnery. "I started playing with the older kids when I was about eight years old and just never stopped. I got better as I grew older, and basketball became a passion for me."
As Nunnery's affection for the game grew more intense, his determination to play at a higher level became insatiable. Nunnery prepped at Magnolia's perennial basketball power South Pike High School, where he etched his name in the annals of the school's record books. As the starting point guard for the Eagles during his 10th grade season, Nunnery helped guide his squad to a 30-8 record and a Mississippi South State title. A two-time Division 6-4A first team selection, Nunnery scored over 1,100 points in high school and averaged 21.4 points and dished out 6.7 assists per game his senior year.
Heavily recruited by Division II and NAIA schools, Nunnery would not waiver from his dream of playing DI basketball. Ole Miss had just appeared in the NCAA Sweet 16 to cap the 2000-01 season, and Nunnery was attracted to the Oxford campus because of its aesthetic beauty and its basketball potential.
"I fell in love with the campus immediately," recalls Nunnery. "I knew that Ole Miss was where I wanted to go to school, but I really wanted to play basketball, too. They were attractive coming off the great year in 2001."
So with his mind made up, Nunnery marched to the office of Rebel head coach Rod Barnes. Nunnery simply told Barnes that he wanted to play basketball for the Rebels. Barnes simply said no.
"Coach Barnes said that the roster was full," explains Nunnery. "He told me I'd have to participate in walk-on tryouts, and he said that the walk-on route would be very difficult."
But instead of seeing that difficulty, Nunnery saw a ray of opportunity. He enrolled at Ole Miss for the 2001 fall term and began playing in afternoon pick-up games at the school's recreational center. He also paid frequent visits to Coach Barnes.
"Cavadas was so persistent," says Barnes. "He kept coming by the office. I told him we didn't have any room for walk-ons, but he kept saying, 'Coach just give me one chance, and you won't regret it.' I thought that if this guy is going to keep coming back, I have to at least give him an opportunity."
"I got a phone call one afternoon from the coaches," says Nunnery. "They said that they had seen me in some pick-up games and that they were going to give me a chance to play. I was so happy, but I knew that I was facing a challenge."
Nunnery played in 15 games during his freshman year and the daily rigors of college basketball opened Nunnery's eyes to the level of dedication that student-athletes must keep.
"College basketball is fun, but it's challenging," says Nunnery. "I learned that I had to get a lot better if I wanted to be a key contributor to the team."
Despite a rocky sophomore year during which he battled through off-the-court problems, Nunnery responded with a productive junior campaign. Nunnery participated in all 28 Rebel contests in 2003-04 and finished second on the team in steals and third in assists. His efforts were good enough to receive the Rod Barnes "Heart of a Champion Award," which is bestowed upon the player who strives for excellence on and off the court.
Proud of his coach's confidence in him, Nunnery pushed for one final collegiate goal.
"After my junior year, I knew I could start," explains Nunnery. "I knew that coach wanted me to step up some more, and I wanted to do it for him just because he gave me a chance to play."
Having garnered the respect of his teammates, Nunnery was tabbed one of the three team captains for the 2004-05 season while proceeding to earn the starting point guard spot. A fan favorite, Nunnery dishes out a team-high 2.6 assists per game for the Rebels and is second on the club in steals with 33.
But Nunnery believes his senior year won't be his last season of basketball. After he closes out his Ole Miss basketball career, Nunnery will welcome a new challenge.
"I want to be a coach," exclaims Nunnery. "I want to teach basketball to kids and give them the gift that I have been given."
Who will give him a chance?
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