The Hoboken High School senior only picked up the game of basketball because her older brothers, Ramel Mixson and Delquan Groomes, were playing one day in the Fourth Street Playground in the Mile Square City.
“Watching them play made me want to play,” Nyasia Mixson said. “We were together, so I decided to give it a try. I knew I could shoot. I just couldn’t do the other things, like dribbling. I didn’t like basketball then. I was doing things that I couldn’t do.”
But once Mixson got a taste of the game, she knew that she found a home. Sure, Mixson played other sports, like soccer and softball, but she realized that basketball was indeed her sport.
“People kept telling me that I was getting better,” Mixson said. “So I stayed with it.”
When Mixson arrived at Hoboken High a little more than three years ago, she was unsure whether she could play basketball competitively.
“I was a little scared,” Mixson said. “I really didn’t know if I could do it. I knew my stamina was good, because I used to do conditioning [drills] with the boys.”
At first, Mixson was a little-used player as a freshman.
“I saw that she was extremely raw,” said Hoboken head girls’ basketball coach Ryan Sorafine. “But she was extremely athletic. I figured that her fundamental skills would come easy to her. She just needed to understand the game and understand the speed of the game. She needed to have a better understanding of the different defenses. But she always had that natural shot. She could always shoot the ball. She had a dead-on touch for the rim.”
Mixson played sparingly with the Hoboken varsity as a freshman, averaging a little more than four points per game.
“She could make baskets,” Sorafine said. “Dribbling the ball wasn’t her strong point. She used to dribble a little too upright. She had to settle into her role a little.”
There was always a gradual progression in Mixson’s game. She went from four points per game as a freshman to 10 points a contest as a sophomore.
Last year, as a junior, Mixson started to blossom as a standout player, averaging close to 13 points per game for the Redwings, who were one of the biggest surprises in Hudson County, winning more than 20 games and advancing to the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 2, Group I semifinals. Mixson was selected to the Hudson Reporter All-Area Third Team last season for her exploits.
This season, Mixson has been nothing short of brilliant for the Redwings, who own a 13-7 record heading into the Hudson County Tournament quarterfinals this week against Union City.
“I knew that I had to step it up this year,” Mixson said. “I knew we had a few players back from last year, but I felt like I had to be the scorer this year. I had to be a better player this year.”
So Mixson played a lot over the summer, organizing her teammates to get together to play.
“Even when we had a day off, we were together,” Mixson said. “We got together almost every single day. I felt like my teammates had to see me as a leader both on and off the court.”
In recent games, Mixson scored 30 points in wins over Snyder and McNair Academic and 24 points in a loss to Hudson Catholic.
For her efforts, Mixson has been selected as The Hudson Reporter Athlete of the Week for the past week.
Mixson is certainly a three-sport standout for the Redwings. She scored five goals and added an assist for the Hoboken girls’ soccer team two years ago. Last year, for the Redwing softball team, Mixson batted .418 with 13 RBI and 20 stolen bases.
But it’s as a basketball player where Mixson really shines.
“She’s a leader by example,” Sorafine said. “She’s the first one on the court for practice and the last one to leave. She’s not the most vocal kid, but I think when she’s away from the coaches, she’ll speak and the other girls will listen. They’ll listen to Nyasia when she has something to say. She’s also the most passionate player we have about the game. We knew that she was going to be our biggest scoring threat and no doubt, she’s fulfilling that role.”
Sorafine believes that Mixson is a better all-around player this season.
“She’s a more complete player,” Sorafine said. “She’s understanding the game better. She’s playing better defense and understands the defensive concept more. She understands when to drive the ball to the basket. She’s exploded at the right time. She’s meeting her stride at the right time.”
Mixson doesn’t think she’s doing anything differently this season.
“I think my teammates are seeing me on the court and they’re feeding me the ball,” Mixson said. “I’m not doing anything special. I run the floor and I make shots. I guess I’m a little more hungry this year.”
Mixson said that she hopes to play college basketball. There are a handful of schools, like the College of St. Elizabeth in Convent Station, that have expressed interest.
“I haven’t decided about school yet,” Mixson said. “I do know that this has been my best year and that this is just the beginning for me.”
“She wants to play at the next level,” Sorafine said. “She wants to get that opportunity to play. She’s a good student and has the academics to play in college.”
Sorafine was asked what his program will be like once Mixson graduates.
“The thing I’ll miss about her most is that she was the most unselfish player I had,” Sorafine said. “She’s modest. She’s also passionate about the game and she’s always giving 110 percent. Whether she’s scoring 10 or 30, she’s always the same. Nothing changes her. I think that attitude is going to be missed.” – Jim Hague.
Jim Hague can be reached at OGSMAR@aol.com.