Third Time’s The Charm For Terry Nolan Jr., Towson Men’s Basketball

Baltimore native Terry Nolan Jr. is back home, finally landing at Towson, and just like that, coach Pat Skerry is talking about him going someplace else and taking the Tigers with him.

Oh, not to worry, Skerry is one of Nolan’s biggest fans. This was his third recruitment of the nearby Mount Carmel product. First, Nolan went to George Washington out of high school in 2017, and then when he first transferred in 2019, he wanted a big change and headed to Bradley University in Peoria, Ill.

Now Nolan is home and helping a Towson team with a lot of moving parts come together. Skerry is on record loudly saying the well-traveled grad student is the key to unlocking the Tigers’ season and unleashing this team, which was picked eighth in the Colonial Athletic Association preseason poll.

“For us to get to where we want to be, he’s going to have to be really, really good,” Skerry said.

Nolan, who has maintained a great relationship with the 11th-year Towson coach through those three recruitments, doesn’t shy away from the assessment.

“That’s the reason I came here,” Nolan said. “I already knew coming back home there was a certain pressure that comes with it, but pressure, honestly, I feel pressure comes when you’re not prepared for things. I’ve been preparing for this my whole life.”

There’s truth in Nolan’s statement like there’s truth in his uncanny ability to and often spectacularly put the ball in the basket against bigger and stronger opponents in the paint. Make no mistake, though, the 6-foot-4, 200-pound guard is confident but not cocky.

The last time he was performing in this neck of the woods, Nolan led Our Lady of Mount Carmel to MIAA A Conference and Baltimore Catholic League tournament title game appearances and earned Baltimore Sun first-team All-Metro honors. He finished with more than 1,200 points during a star-studded high school career that drew the attention of college programs all over the country. Ahem, including Towson.

But Nolan was planning on heading to Chattanooga out of Mount Carmel until Mocs coach Matt McCall left for UMass. George Washington was among the first to reach out when Nolan reopened his recruitment. The Colonials had an opening at shooting guard, particularly for one coming off averaging 17 points, six rebounds and five assists in the tough Catholic League.

But Nolan wasn’t happy at GW. He ranked as the team’s top 3-point shooter as a sophomore and averaged 9.8 points in two seasons as a starter, but by the end of his second year he was on the move again, headed for Bradley where he sat out in 2019-20 when the Braves won the Missouri Valley Conference tournament just before the COVID shutdown.

Nolan came back to start 21 games last year. He was second on the team in scoring (11.2 points) and assists (3.3) and earned MVC Scholar-Athlete Team honors, but the pandemic and being so far from home made him push for another change as the transfer portal upended career continuity throughout the sport.

Skerry and Towson were ready. Again.

“We kidded him a lot [because] we unsuccessfully recruited him twice,” Skerry laughed. “The third time’s the charm.”

And returning close to his Charm City roots was part of the allure this time around for Nolan.

“Finally, being back home and having your support system around you, it’s just great,” he said. “Especially after the COVID season and being away from my family so long, I just wanted to come back home, one, because I had already built a relationship with Coach Skerry. It’s been genuine and just so much respect for me as a player when he recruited me.”

“That was one factor and the second is I have a baby girl on the way,” added Nolan, referring to baby Lila, due in December, “and I just wanted that support system around me [and girlfriend Sherea Byers].”

Support system? Nolan needs at least 10 tickets for each home game to supply parents, his brothers, nieces and friends. He hears them in the stands, feeds off their cheers and knows he made the right decision. He looks around on the court and feels the same way.

“Playing on this Towson team is just amazing,” he said. “We have a good mix of guys — some vets and some younger guys. The team, in this atmosphere, we’ve really meshed since the summer. Every night we’re out there having fun.”

The Tigers were 7-4 entering play Dec. 14, but there are encouraging signs that this team can be better than advertised. Nolan, who scored in double figures in six of the first seven games and had five assists four times during that stretch, is a big part of the reason.

“He has given us great energy on and off the court,” Skerry said of his prodigal recruit. “And he has another gear he can get to.”

Inside the Towson program, the Tigers anticipated a roller-coaster start. Three key players had offseason surgery, and Skerry said the process of getting them back to full speed slowed the team a bit early on. Redshirt junior guard Nicolas Timberlake, coming off surgery for bone spurs, had a career-high 25 points in a win against New Mexico at the Las Vegas Invitational over Thanksgiving. Junior Jason Gibson (back surgery) and grad student Juwan Gray (Achilles) are coming off of injuries as well.

“We have a chance to become a very good basketball team, a much better ball-movement team than we’ve ever had,” Skerry said, bantering on one of his basic basketball beliefs. “We just haven’t shot it, but we’ve got good shooters so I feel like that will happen. I hate to use a clich√©, but we are a work in progress.”

Progress is sometimes a slow process when you call yourself “Transfer U,” a play on “TU.” Towson has six players who have played in other Division I programs, including Nolan, Gray (San Diego), Antonio Rizzuto (UAlbany), Curtis Holland III (High Point), Chase Paar (GW) and Cam Holden (UT Martin).

“The guys we have all had successful experiences at programs so they’ve all got experience, know what a walkthrough is, understand scouting reports and know how to find the training table, tangible things they can draw upon,” Skerry said. “Terry has been a real leader for us. I’m high on the guy. He has been playing really good, but I think he can be great for us — an elite performer on both sides of the ball.”

Nolan was third on the team in scoring (12.0 points per game) and led in assists (4.3) out of the gates. His 22.8 percent shooting from three is likely to climb, too.

“It’s about having the right mindset,” he said. “You have to stay consistent through the ups and downs and that’s what I tell all the young guys.”

No doubt, Nolan keeps the faith. He’s a devout Christian and seeks out sermons and inspirational speeches each day on the internet to keep him grounded and focused. Skerry liked the solid family foundation parents Terry Sr. and Danielle have provided for Terry Jr., and his maturity is an asset for the Tigers.

He already has his degree in advertising and public relations from Bradley and even launched a T-shirt company called “Impetuous” in 2019 and had some success. He backed off the business with college athletics’ pivot toward name, image, likeness opportunities, but that’s not at the top of his to-do list these days.

Nolan is so happy to be back home and playing for Towson, he’d likely give teammates the Impetuous T-shirt off his back.

“We all came here with the bigger picture of just winning,” he said. “This is really the best group of guys I’ve been around. We come from a lot of different backgrounds, but we have a lot of similarities and share the same drive.”

There is a lot of drive on this team, but the Tigers are counting on Nolan to take the wheel and get them where they want to be.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Towson Athletics

Issue 272 December 2021 / January 2022

Originally published Dec. 15, 2021

Mike Ashley

See all posts by Mike Ashley. Follow Mike Ashley on Twitter at @lrgsptswrtr