Odds are, second-year Nooksack Valley coach Chris Scrimsher couldn’t ask for a better candidate than Connor Beard to champion the style of play and attitude Scrimsher wanted to inject into what’s been a struggling Pioneers’ basketball program the past few years.
Nooksack Valley was winless two years ago, and although the Pioneers were much-improved during Scrimsher’s first season last winter, Nooksack Valley only won two games.
Thanks to Beard and other seniors such as Noah Rawls, Jeremy Toner and Aaron Bosscher, Nooksack Valley owns a 7-7 record and seems to be on the rise.
Success can’t solely be attributed to Beard, but the 5-foot-8 senior, who Scrimsher said plays like he’s 6-5, certainly has been an integral part.
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“He is vital to the program,” Scrimsher said. “He is our leading scorer. He is one of our best defenders, and really I would say he is top two in terms of speed in the league.”
Beard ranks third in the Northwest Conference in scoring with 18.9 points per game and has developed into a true scorer displaying his ability to penetrate and get to the rim, his improved mid-range game and strong shooting beyond the arc.
There are really very few teams that man us, and if they do, it’s not for very long, and one of the main reasons is they have trouble keeping up with Connor’s speed. He is a guy who represents a real challenge for the opposition.
Nooksack Valley coach Chris Scrimsher on Connor Beard
But what arguably stands out most about Beard’s game is what Scrimsher first noticed — his break-neck speed.
“This is a team where we have a limited amount of players,” Scrimsher said. “What I’m asking him to do and accomplish each night is a lot, and he does it with a smile on his face.”
And at an unreal pace.
Only twice, due to injury, has Beard missed minutes this year, the senior said. His frantic pace breathes energy into his team, but his speed hasn’t always benefited him as is does today. Beard said he’s had to learn how to turn it on and off.
“Change of direction and change of pace is something that every coach I’ve ever had has told me,” Beard said. “I’ve always tried to go 100 miles per hour at all times, but coach reminds me of it that changing speed is more important than just going fast all the time.”
When he was younger Beard said he use to get caught up in the air with the ball in his hands and no exit strategy, but now he’s maximizing the benefits of his blazing-fast play.
Defensively, there’s not many guards who have an upper hand, and on offense he’s so fast he’s able to dictate the opposing team’s defense.
“There are really very few teams that man us, and if they do, it’s not for very long,” Scrimsher said, “and one of the main reasons is they have trouble keeping up with Connor’s speed. He is a guy who represents a real challenge for the opposition.”
Nooksack Valley knows reaching the postseason and navigating through talented teams such as Lynden Christian, Mount Baker and Meridian will be a challenge, but the feeling of heading into games knowing a win is unrealistic no longer exists, and Beard is a large part of that.
In fact, the Pioneers now enter games thinking they can compete with anyone.
“This year has been a lot of fun with the guys that we have on the team,” Beard said. “This year it’s a good group of guys. ... It’s more of a pride issue than anything. We got smacked around the last couple of years, and going into this year we said that is not happening again, and we kind of play with a chip on our shoulder.”