Southeast Raleigh girls basketball coach Nicole Meyers is reminded of the impact a high school coach can have every time she steps onto the court, once an unfamiliar place to her.
Meyers, then Nicole Sampson, was once a freshman in a Rocky Mount High physical education class. A 6-1 freshman who had never played basketball before had a natural instinct – she was boxing out in pick-up games.
Her teacher, girls basketball coach Pam Gainey, pleaded with her to give the sport a shot and eventually persuaded the Sampson family. Meyers was playing at UNC-Asheville a few years later.
“She said ‘You are too tall to do nothing,’ ” Meyers recalled. “She started from scratch with me, but by my junior year I was getting scholarship offers.”
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Upon graduating college, Meyers came back and coached for four years under Gainey. Gainey was “pleasantly surprised” that Meyers got into coaching after picking up the sport so late.
The two grew close, sharing a love for the game, a birthday and a family tie: Gainey’s father went to school with Meyers’ grandfather and grandmother.
Meyers then spent one year as a Southeast Raleigh assistant coach before replacing William Powell in 2006 as Southeast’s second head coach in school history.
On Saturday, Meyers will be coaching in her third state title game in four years when the Bulldogs play Northwest Guilford at 2:35 p.m. at Reynolds Coliseum. She’s 279-37 overall, an average of 25-3 every year.
Gainey still follows Meyers’ successes, and the two meet up every preseason for a scrimmage.
“We were big on commitment and relationships (at Rocky Mount), and I’m sure that for her and her program, those are some of her core values as well,” Gainey said. “I can tell just from how the girls are engaged and how much it means to them. Just being able to watch that and watch her in action with them, that means a lot to me.”
Southeast Raleigh has a few players who sign to play college basketball each year, and Meyers does all she can to help them.
She tries to pay forward what her high school coach did for her.
“My parents are very grateful for that because they did not have to pay for college. I think they’re grateful that she harassed me every day in PE,” Meyers said. “It was definitely a turning point in my life because not only did she impact going to the next level, but by taking me under her wing for four years as her assistant propelled me to do what I’m doing now.”