When Temple hired former Towson coach Diane Richardson as their head Women’s Basketball coach in April 2022, many players on the Tigers hoped to follow their coach from Baltimore County to North Broad. As soon as Richardson arrived at Temple, she knew she wanted to bring senior guard Aleah Nelson with her.
In her first season at Temple, Nelson has been the offensive focal point for the Owls, while serving as one of the team’s main leaders by being vocal with her teammates on the floor and setting them up with scoring opportunities near the basket.
“I think even just playing like the sport basketball in general, it takes a lot of energy and I just have energy all the time,” Nelson said. “Even if you have an 8 a.m. walkthrough, I have energy.”
Nelson, who was named to the All-Colonial Athletic Association team last season at Towson, has already built an impressive resume during her time with the Owls. She scored her 1,000th collegiate point in a victory against Duquesne University on Dec. 16, while finishing the contest with a season-high 33 points.
By excelling in her role as a facilitator, Nelson has become a leader and gained the trust and confidence of her teammates, both old and new. Richardson, who coached Nelson for three seasons at Towson, has credited her with uniting the team during tough moments.
“She’s always shown leadership tendencies,” Richardson said. “So I knew that once we left house and came here, she still continued to do that. I think that she’ll do that anywhere she goes, whether it’s at the next level, professionally or whatever. I think that is something that’s inherent in her that she does all the time.”
After a 75-66 loss to Saint Joseph’s University on Nov. 23 that dropped the Owls’ record to an uninspiring 1-4, Nelson remained confident that the team would bounce back and vowed the Owls would improve their play.
“I’m not worried,” Nelson said following the loss. “We’re going to have a winning season and we’re going to win the [conference championship].”
Richardson draws up plays to give Nelson the ball in clutch moments and utilizes her as a scoring threat and decoy. Other teams gravitate towards her aggressiveness, opening up scoring opportunities for her teammates.
Nelson is among the conference leaders in assists and was named the American Athletic Conference and Big 5 Player of the Week on three occasions this season.
“It gets other people open which makes it easier because now I’m a threat to shoot,” Nelson said. “You have other defenders coming and double teaming me and then that leads to somebody else being open.”
Nelson’s energy and leadership rubs off on her teammates and helps them improve their own game, said junior guard and fellow Towson transfer Tarriyonna Gary.
“She brings leadership like that, the first thing she’s always looking for is to be a leader, guiding us through the play,” Gary said. “She’s always gonna push us and make us better and in her commitment to the team, she definitely elevates our game.”
Despite her impressive start to the season, Nelson still believes the Owls have some things to work on to reach their ultimate goal of winning the conference tournament in March, she said.
“Where we can do better I think is just playing well while we’re fatigued,” Nelson said. “I think that’s where teams get us and sometimes I feel like we kind of lose that battle or like we can just be more mentally tough.”