MERIDEN — Meriden’s Anthony Nimani is heading to the Ivy League.
The 6-foot-4 guard out of Platt announced over the weekend that he will play at Division I Cornell University in New York starting in the 2024-25 season.
“It’s a blessing,” Nimani said Monday. “Not a lot of kids in Meriden get this far and there are not a lot of kids here who have these type of possibilities, even though there are a lot of good athletes.
“It’s a blessing. I’m in disbelief that it’s happened like this. But I always believed in myself. I pushed. I wanted to create something like this to happen.”
Nimani, a 2023 Platt grad, will play a prep year at the Berkshire School in Sheffield, Mass. The season begins in November.
Nimani is coming off of a stellar four-year career with the Platt boys basketball team. In his final season, he led the Panthers to the CIAC Division III semifinals before signing off with the most points scored by a boy in Platt basketball history.
Nimani is a two-time All-Stater and the two-time Record-Journal Boys Basketball Player of the Year.
He finished with 1,626 points in his career, which included the COVID-shortened season of 2020-21, which sapped the potential for more points.
Nimani averaged just under 25 points this season, in which the Panthers went 20-6. He guided the Panthers to their first ever CCC Tournament and state semifinal appearances.
Nimani was strong in the classroom with a 3.6 GPA.
Along with Cornell, Nimani also had offers from The Citadel (South Carolina) and Saint Michael’s (Maine) and Lees-McRae College (North Carolina).
“Cornell was really on me all summer,” Nimani said. “It’s one of the better teams in the Ivy League and very good academics, and for me it was a no-brainer, because if basketball doesn’t work out for me, my education can set me up for life.”
Nimani said he built a good relationship with the Cornell assistants and head coach.
“I went for a visit and I loved it,” Nimani said. “It’s a really nice campus and the team has high character. The coaching staff welcomed me. I’m excited.”
Nimani played AAU ball this past summer with he House We Built, a Boston-based team.
Nimani said he will feel comfortable playing with Cornell, which plays a fast-pace, pressure-filled game.
“I’m working on my shooting because I have to get used to the college 3-point line,” Nimani said. “Cornell is a program that shoots a lot of 3’s and they are one of the fastest teams in the country. I think they were the third fastest and press every possession.”
In the meantime, Nimani said he’s looking forward to a big year at Berkshire, where he hopes to win a New England Class A prep school championship before heading to college next summer.
Nimani said he projects to be a point guard in college.
He started playing as a sixth grader, though he didn’t go out for his team at Washington Middle School that year. He didn’t make the seventh-grade team, but eventually made the team in eighth grade. At Platt, he was a four-year starter.
“I think it will help give a lot kids in Meriden confidence,” Nimani said. “They saw me work and they saw me try. I wasn’t always the best player, but when I was in the gym I was locked in. That’s what made me a better player.
“I hope this shows that it’s possible for other Meriden athletes to strive for if they believe in themselves.”
Nimani said he has always been supported by his mother Bridget as well has his coach at Platt, Shawon Moncrief.
“Shawon was by my side the entire time,” Nimani said. “He’s always trusted me and I trust him so much. He flipped my life around. I was just playing basketball and I was good. I dreamt about playing college ball but he helped make that a reality for me. He really pushed me for that.”
Moncrief said Nimani is like family. The two have had a strong coach-player relationship for the last 4½ years.
“I’m super-proud and excited,” Moncrief said Monday. “I’m looking forward to see his journey continue. He’s earned everything that’s coming his way. He did it with hard work and no short-cuts. I couldn’t be happier for him and his family.”
The two endured a one-win season in Nimani’s freshman year and made it to the state semis in his senior year.
“There were times where he would see other people get recognized for their talents, and me and him both knew he was a better player,” Moncrief said. “There was a lot of late-night conversations keeping his spirits up. I would tell him his time would come. We are happy it’s finally here. It couldn’t have happened to a better kid. I feel like a proud uncle.”
Nimani said he will study something business-related in college.
Berkshire basketball coach Jeff Depelteau said he’s excited to see Nimani in action up close this season.
“I’m excited for him and for his family about Anthony going to Cornell,” Depelteau said. “It’s one of the best academic institutions in the world and one of the best basketball teams in the Ivy League.”
Depelteau said Cornell first saw Nimani at a summer showcase in June and followed him throughout July.
“He’s a great leader and a great player,” Depelteau said. “I’m really excited to get the season officially going. I want to help mentor him and take him to the next level.
“His positional size really differentiates him; playing the point at 6-4 gives him an advantage,” he added. “If you look at his stats in high school, you would think he’s a selfish player, but he gets all of his teammates going. His skills are impressive; his presence separates him. He sets the tone and he’s a huge piece to what we are able to do this year.”
Moncrief said he plans on seeing Nimani play for his prep team and, eventually, in college.
“Everybody’s journey is different and I would tell him hard work will get recognized and it’s fulfilling to see it happen to Anthony,” Moncrief said.