Hard-working Spartan hungry for success

Hard work pays off is one of the oldest clichés in sports. However, Bainbridge boys basketball star Sam Nylund is a perfect example that some clichés are true.

“I was hungry to get better,” Nylund said. “I was unsatisfied with my skill level and the success of our team. I took it personally and went to the gym every day.”

Nylund, a 6-foot-4 senior guard, maybe putting coach Will Ferris on speed dial soon because of the many calls he has made for extra workouts.

“He is reaching out to me at six in the morning to shoot, lift or train,” Ferris said. “He calls me for workouts before games or the morning of games. When I was in high school, nobody was doing that. I prided myself on working hard, and this guy works much harder than I did.”

Nylund needed to work at least twice as hard because he did not begin playing basketball seriously until he was a freshman at Bainbridge High School. Before that, Nylund grew up playing a variety of sports in Maryland. At age 10, Nylund moved to BI and began to narrow down the sports he played.

“As I got older, I focused more on lacrosse but decided it wasn’t for me when I went into my freshman year of high school,” Nylund said. “I had some buddies who were playing outside every day, and I fell in love with basketball again.”

It was a slow start for Nylund. He did not make varsity as a freshman, and as a sophomore was deep on the varsity bench.

“In 2021, I saw Sam, and he didn’t play very much,” Ferris said. “I invited him to some of my eighth-grade practices, and he was good but wasn’t great. He communicated well and worked hard.”

Nylund began to question himself when the results were unsatisfactory.

“I lacked self-belief and compared myself to other people,” Nylund said. “I wished I had natural abilities and athleticism. It’s taken me a while, but the work I am putting in has been paying off, and I am believing in myself.”

After averaging just a handful of minutes and 1.2 points a game as a sophomore, Nylund flipped his mentality as a junior. He went from trying to feel comfortable on the court to how he could help lift up each player on his team.

Nylund shattered his original goal of trying to be a contributor on the Bainbridge varsity. As a junior, Nylund averaged 16.5 points per game, including a 33-point game against Kingston, 7 rebounds, 3 steals and 3 assists. Nylund was the only Spartan to finish first team in the Olympic League and in Kitsap County.

“I don’t like to compare myself because I bring different skills to the table,” Nylund said. “I am not worried about who is better than me and who I am better than, it’s our team against their team.”

Nylund has a unique playing style that makes him tough to guard. He likes to get downhill, be physical and use his body.

“There is more ways to impact than scoring and having the ball in my hands,” Nylund said. “Rebounding, being a leader and getting guys opportunities is something I have focused on this year.”

Ferris added: “He’s almost like the wise owl. His ability to slow the game down mentally and physically but also be one of the most athletic players in the area makes it a special balance. It’s hard to guard our team because we aren’t a typical team, and Sam is the spearhead of that.”

Nylund has played a huge role in the Spartans 4-1 early season record.

“I’ll do whatever it takes to win,” Nylund said. “Whether it means to put up 25 points or 10 in every category. My role fluctuates every day but the baseline is what I have to do to make sure we can win, and we are getting better.”

Nylund is averaging 20 points, 10 rebounds, 4 steals and 4 assists this season.

Ferris said: “It’s unreal to have a guy to take a lot of pressure off me, and I have a lot of confidence in him. He came up to me after our last win by 30 and he said coach we are not doing what makes us great. I told him he was right. I critique him as a coach all the time so if I can’t take his feedback, it doesn’t make us better.”

Although Nylund blossomed late, Ferris has been getting several calls from coaches and recruiters regarding his future playing in college. However, Nylund is not worried about his future in basketball yet. Instead, he is focused on making one final push with the Spartans.

“At team dinner, someone asked Sam what he was doing next year,” Ferris said. “I try to protect these guys from this question because I want them to love their life now. Sam said I am playing for Bainbridge right now. For him to buy into what we are doing means the world.”

Whether Nylund decides to play in college or hang his shoes in the Bainbridge rafters, the Spartan basketball community will always have his back.

“The sky is the limit for Sam, and I am going to support him,” Ferris said. “The belief in Sam is so high and there are endless possibilities.”

Nylund said: “This is something I will never forget. I am creating memories that will last a lifetime. It brought joy and friendship to basketball.”

Nylund has led the Spartans to a 4-1 start.

Nylund has led the Spartans to a 4-1 start.