When Nimrod Hilliard IV digs in on defense in Madison East's full-court zone press, he gets low and wide, like youth basketball players are coached to do. And as the opposing point guard approaches with the ball, he grins widely, claps and shouts "Let's go!" - maybe to his teammates, maybe to the opponent.
"He's a pretty engaging kid," says first-year East head coach Matt Miota. "People like to be around him. He plays the game with a lot of heart, and he likes to have fun on the court."
Against a much taller Sun Prairie last Friday night, Hilliard led the Purgolders to a thrilling overtime win, giving defenders fits with his crossovers and pull-up jump shots. During games, Hilliard is in constant motion, talking to his teammates, referees and opponents.
"As a point guard, you've gotta look around and know everything," he says. "It's my job to do everything on the court, let everybody know what's going on."
That energy has made him beloved by the East fans, who show up in T-shirts featuring Peppy the Purgolder sporting Hilliard's trademark goggles and make pretend goggles with their fingers when he shoots free throws.
Hilliard is averaging more than 25 points a game for East and will play for the University of South Dakota, a .500 team in the Great West conference, next year. Local basketball fans have a few more opportunities to see him play for the Purgolders before the playoffs start, including the Purgolders' final home game, against La Follette, this Saturday night.