All eyes on Donnelly

Junior Guard Nick Donnelly steals the show this season with 60 successful three-pointers and the team's best free-throw percentage

Anish Paudel | Mercury Staff

Guard Nick Donnelly has emerged as an important player for the men’s basketball team’s offense and defense. Averaging career-highs in points, assists, steals and rebounds this season, Donnelly played a major role in the Comets’ ASC title victory.

Donnelly, a junior, joined the Comets in his freshman year as a shooting guard, specializing in shooting efficiently from range, especially three-pointers. This season, he shot a team-best 92 percent from the free throw line, in addition to 60 successful three-pointers. He was named Academic All-ASC in both the 2021-22 and 2022-23 seasons, exemplifying both his academic and athletic prowess. After coming off the bench for his first two seasons with the Comets, Donnelly has started all but one game this season and more than doubled his playing time. After overcoming initial struggles with lack of playing time and injuries earlier in his career, Donnelly has blossomed into a leader and a driving force for the team.

“Nick is really sort of our unsung hero, he has been outstanding for us all year long,” said Jared Fleming, head coach of men’s basketball. “He has proven to be a clutch guy for us late in games, he’s been a big game player for us, and he’s been crucial for our run late in the season.”

Donnelly has excelled both on the court and in the classroom. He has a keen interest in business and said he was fortunate to be able to attend a highly rated school for business like UTD. He said that he strikes a good balance between athletics and academics and deeply values his education.

“I’m playing a college sport while getting the right education here and it’s definitely benefiting me a lot and will lead me towards success in the future,” Donnelly said. “It’s a good fit for me.”

Donnelly mainly plays the shooting guard position, helping the offense by knocking down open shots while also playing hard on defense and guarding the opposition’s best player as needed.

“He’s an excellent shooter, he can really shoot the three and he’s got a deadly mid-range jump shot,” Fleming said. “He has been a consistent scorer for us and has been consistently the same guy for us all year long, and that’s been a huge, steadying hand for us in a long season.”

Along with his increase in playing time, Donnelly has also grown to serve as a team captain, and his efforts have not gone unnoticed by team members.

“I really like Nick as a teammate,” Donnelly’s teammate Donovan Souter said. “He really knows how to find his teammates and he’s really a great leader for our team.”

Donnelly said he embraces the leadership role on his team and strives to be a positive influence on the younger players.

“Mentoring the freshmen and paving the path so they can do the same when we’re gone and the younger guys will replace us,” Donnelly said. “Set a good example and be a role model for them.”

Rainier Pederson | Mercury Staff

Fleming said that Donnelly has grown to be a more physical and stronger player than he was at the start of his UTD career, and has also gained confidence which all led to his improvement this year. Fleming also emphasized his growth in leadership qualities, which he saw within Donnelly since his freshman year.

“He knows what he’s about, he’s playing with confidence and swagger. He’s really grown defensively since he got here,” Fleming said. “That was a weakness of his as a freshman, and he’s really developed that in a really good way for us. He’s grown tremendously.”

Donnelly’s efforts helped the Comets win the ASC championship on Feb. 24 earlier this season, a moment he described as one his favorites in his career. The Comets won against Mary-Hardin Baylor off a buzzer-beater and the win gave Donnelly his first ASC title. He scored 11 points, including 3 three-pointers, in the game.

“It was one of our best games of the season,” Donnelly said. “It just shows that we’re never out of it and that this team fights till the end.”

Donnelly is optimistic about the Comets’ future performance and looks to improve both as a team and individually.

“We’re gonna have to win games no matter what the rankings are and no matter what people are saying,” Donnelly said. “We’re trying to put more banners up in the gym.”

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