Girls basketball: OJR junior Nikki Testa is a major hit on and off the court, diamond

By DAVE KURTZ
Pac-10sports.com

 

BUCKTOWN – The question had only two possible answers – basketball or softball?

Owen J. Roberts junior Nikki Testa thought it over for a minute, and came up with this non-committal response – “Whatever sport is in season, that’s my favorite.”

Testa is in the enviable position of being proficient in two sports – an All PAC-10 caliber performer who is equally adept at hitting shots on the hardwood or diamond.

“I’ve been playing basketball since I was 7, and I always played against the boys,” said Testa, who averaged 16.7 points, 5 assists and 5 steals to help the Wildcats get off to a 2-1 start that was highlighted by their season-opening conquest in the Twin Valley Tip-Off Tournament. “I really like softball, too, and that is my focus in the spring.

“I definitely want to play sports in college, but I’m not sure which sport I’d choose if it came down to one or the other. Maybe I’ll be able to play both.”

While that could be a daunting challenge at any collegiate level, it’s not completely out of the question for someone with Testa’s abilities. Nikki has unique skills that carry over from one sport to the other.

“As an athlete she is quick and always makes good decisions,” said OJR girls hoops coach Jeremy Mellon. “She’s an excellent shooter and great finisher around the rim. Her basketball IQ is very high and she makes her teammates around her better.”

OJR softball coach Kevin Kirby echoed the same high praise for Nikki, who’s been a varsity starter since her freshman season.

“Nikki’s a great leader and just a joy to be around,” said Kirby. “She can play a lot of different spots on the field. Nikki played left field as a freshman and mostly second base last year, so she’s very versatile defensively.

“Nikki hit about .380 her freshman year and although her average wasn’t that high last season, she always seemed to be able to get the big hit for us. On top of that, she sees things before they happen, has great instincts for the game and is a real cerebral player.”

Nikki’s smarts carry over to the classroom, where she is a constant presence on the honor roll and currently holds down a lofty 3.96 GPA in a demanding curriculum that includes several AP courses.

The daughter of Diane and Gerry Testa of East Coventry is also a member of the Key Club and Tattoo Club (teens against tobacco use) at OJR and has served as a volunteer youth softball and basketball coach.

“We do a lot of (community) stuff with the team,” said Nikki. “In school, math is probably by favorite subject and as far as a major, I’m thinking about accounting or engineering.”

Right now, Testa is helping engineer a new mindset in a girls’ basketball program that is on the rise under Mellon.

“Our league is very tough,” said Nikki, who plays travel softball for the Collegeville Xtreme while doubling up on the OJR girls hoops team during the summer months. “We just try and take it one game at a time. I think we grew up a lot together over the summer (playing basketball). I’ve been playing with most of these girls for a long time, and I’ve been playing for Coach Mellon since seventh grade.”

Familiarity breeds good chemistry on the court, and that is pretty much what has transpired under the direction of tri-captains Theresa Walsh (senior), Rebecca Painter (junior) and Testa. Walsh is the lone senior in the group.

“Nikki, along with Rebecca and Theresa, is a good leader because she is constantly asking questions, giving advice and helping others with what she sees,” said Mellon. “Nikki is a great role model for our youngers players because she does what is right on and off the court.

“She also has a very similar mindset to me as a head coach; her reactions to situations, her ultra-competitiveness, the things she says and her basketball philosophy mirror mine. It is great to have a player like that on the court helping to lead.”

Those exemplary personality traits, accompanied by a peerless work ethic and a fierce will to win, should serve Nikki well when she moves on to college.

“It’s definitely in the back of my head,” she said. “The sport or sports I’ll pursue really depends on where I go. Academics are the biggest thing. That’s what my parents stress. The main thing about college is coming out with a degree.”

“Nikki is a terrific, terrific softball player,” said Kirby. “But she’s even a better kid.”

Testa has endeared herself to teammates and coaches alike with her magnetic personality.

Nikki Testa was one of those players that you knew you could build the program around,” Mellon said. “She has a t tremendous work ethic and is an outstanding basketball player. 

“Maybe the very best part is she makes things so much fun!  She is always laughing and smiling. You want to go have a conversation with her because you know it will end with laughter.  She makes the atmosphere light when it needs to be and competitive when it should be.  Even as a coach, she makes you find new ways to love being in the gym every day and coaching this great group of players at OJR.”