It was Nov. 16, and a fresh high school basketball schedule had recently begun. West Forsyth, with high expectations, was coming off a tough opening night loss to Forsyth Central and was in need of a spark against its next opponent, Mountain View.
Just as that contest began, senior co-captain Nick Staiti got his hands on the ball, planted his feet beyond the arc and nailed a three-pointer. Moments later, he did it again. Then three more times.
Staiti hit five straight 3s to start that game, staking his team to a big first quarter lead — one it didn’t relinquish. The Wolverines got their first win of the year that evening, topping Mountain View 48-43. Staiti finished with 26 points, 54 percent of West’s offense.
The Wolverines needed a spark many times throughout the 2013-14 campaign, and more often than not, Staiti was the one to ignite the fuse. For that, and a plethora of other reasons, he is the Forsyth County News’ Boys’ Basketball Player of the Year.
"It’s a big honor," Staiti said. "A lot of practice and extra work went into it, and my teammates did a great job getting me the ball."
Staiti has made a name for himself as a sharpshooter, but what separated him from the pack this season was his evolution in other facets of the game. He finished 2013-14 first on the team in free throws and free throw percentage, second in rebounds, third in blocks and fifth in steals.
"The biggest improvement is he became a complete player — not someone who can just catch and shoot," said West head coach Jim Cook. "He became a kid who could drive to the basket, draw a foul, hit a foul shot, make good passes to his teammates and make good decisions offensively and defensively."
"He understood what it took to become a complete player. He realized getting rebounds creates more opportunities for himself and for his teammates."
Still, Staiti’s greatest asset was his lethal shot. He finished the 2013-14 campaign with 18.9 points per game, good for tops in the county among public school players.
Basketball, especially at the high school level, is a game of momentum, and Staiti had a knack for swinging energy in West’s favor.
"When Nick would hit those 3s, you could just see the air go out of the opponents’ lungs," Cook said. "Those were backbreakers. And it got our guys and our crowd excited."
West ultimately fell short of expectations, going 10-15 overall and 6-8 in Region 6-AAAAAA, but the season wasn’t without its highlights.
For Staiti, his favorite moment of the year came late in the schedule at home against Johns Creek. He was having a tremendous night in which he scored 26 points and was 10 of 13 from the field.
As the match-up wore down in the waning moments, Staiti put an exclamation mark not only on the game, but on his career, as well.
"We were up and I drove baseline," said Staiti. "A kid contested me and I dunked it somehow."
A couple weeks later, the Wolverines lost in a rematch against Johns Creek in the region tournament. It was a difficult and underwhelming way for Staiti to go out, though he certainly did his part posting a double-double with 10 points and 12 rebounds.
West will head into next winter with the goal of advancing further into the region tournament sans Staiti and fellow senior co-captain John Conway.
It will be up to the underclassmen to fill the scoring void Staiti provided for two fruitful seasons — not an impossible task, but a difficult one, to say the least.
"Nick is going to be tough to replace, that’s for sure," said Cook. "It won’t be the same without him."