When Terry Collins took over St. Louis Community College’s men’s basketball coach last summer, his roster was in the midst of an overhaul, with just two holdovers from Randy Reed’s two-year regime.
One of those returners was guard Nate Rigmaiden, who has enjoyed a breakout sophomore campaign and has his team playing its best basketball of the season over the past month.
“I really didn’t know what to expect from him, other than that he averaged about five points a game a year ago,” Collins said. “ I know he wasn’t a featured player, a player who was counted upon for major production. He did shoot 40 percent from three-point, but there wasn’t a lot of volume there, so it was unclear how much significance that held.”
The first months of the year proved to be a challenge for both sides, as Rigmaiden adjusted to not only an entirely new set of teammates, but also a fiery, veteran head coach whose approach with players represented a stark contrast to what the Archers became accustomed to under Reed.
The laid-back nature that had defined Rigmaiden came to a head on December 15 when, just three days after scoring a season-high 31 points in a win over Arkansas State Mid-South, Rigmaiden was benched for missing the pre-game shoot-around. He responded by scoring 15 points off the bench to help the Archers to a second straight win that day. Though he remains largely soft-spoken, Rigmaiden has since developed into a quality leader for what is primarily a youthful roster, and has gained the respect of his disciplinarian head coach.
“Early in the year, I think it was a major adjustment for both of us, learning each other,” Collins said. “He’s a little more laid-back, and that’s not my personality. I think we respect each other and so we just had to work through that. He’s got a long way to go to get better, but he certainly has become the focal point for us offensively. He certainly has gotten better with managing his time, which is a needed quality for a student-athlete. I don’t know if there’s been a breakthrough moment, it’s just been a gradual process.”
“For me as well, I probably didn’t appreciate him in some ways, because he’s understated in some ways,” Collins continued. “He’s just a really, under control player. His decision-making has been pretty good for a guy who takes some chances, takes some deep threes, where you think it might not be a good shot, and so I’ve had to give him a little longer leash as we’ve gone along. He’s been mature in that way.”
Coming into his own
As that leash has been extended, so has the production from Rigmaiden, who was named the NJCAA Division II player of the week after guiding the Archers to consecutive road victories over John Wood and Moberly Area Community College on January 2-3. Rigmaiden kept the momentum moving this weekend, scoring 26 points to lead STLCC to its fifth win in the team’s past six games.
The sharpshooting lefty has become the unquestioned offensive force on the Archers’ roster, entering this week by averaging 17 points per game. No other player on the roster is averaging double figures in scoring. With the added production, there will likely be added attention as the season reaches its final months.
While Rigmaiden is the team’s offensive centerpiece, his success has directly contributed to increased opportunities for others as he gradually attracts more attention, and the Archers have benefited. STLCC opened the year having lost eight of its first nine games, and has since won five of six.
Rigmaiden’s game drips with confidence. Just as he did when Collins arrived on the scene, Rigmaiden shows little to no reticence to uncorking high-arcing, long-range shots from all over the court, guarded or not. Fortunately for the Archers, his success rate remains high, as he’s drilled 38 percent of his three-point attempts, and his gunslinger swagger has permeated into the rest of the roster.
“I think he gives us a lot of confidence that we can score when we need to score,” Collins said. “We can fall behind a bit, but we’re confident we can come back. He’s also unselfish, and if he draws a lot of attention, he finds other players. I think other players are starting to realize that this is really good. It opens up avenues for him, and he finds people, and that’s probably the best thing about him. Sometimes, when a player has a high volume of shots, it can hurt the team, but at this point, it’s actually helped our team play, because the other players are starting to see how they can feed off of that.”
As the coach of a team that is playing some of its best basketball but remains at 6-9 overall, Collins is hesitant to laud additional praise on both a player and team that is very much a work in progress. Plenty of room for improvement remains in Rigmaiden’s game. Collins points to sophomore Marcel Lee as a key leader on the defensive side of the ball, and would like to see Rigmaiden begin to mimic the Three Rivers transfer in his attention to detail defensively.
“The biggest step for him now is to be as strong on the defensive end as he is on the offensive end,” Collins said. “As he’s lifting up our whole team offensively, Marcel is doing that defensively, and he needs to follow Marcel’s lead on that. Our margin for error as a team remains very small.”
Nevertheless, the Archers are a markedly different team than they were at the season’s outset, a revival that isn’t possible without the response of the team’s sharpshooting southpaw.