Jasper 4th-grader writes letter to IU idol Phinisee


Nicolas Aguilera

JASPER — Tenth Street Elementary fourth-grader Nicolas Aguilera plays point-guard for his youth basketball team, and wears the number 10 on his basketball jersey, just like his role model, Indiana University Hoosier Rob Phinisee. Now, however, the two players’ connection runs a little bit deeper.

On Monday, Aguilera wrote a fan letter to Phinisee, who is a Lafayette native, that Aguilera’s mom, Brehan Leinenbach, posted to social media. By Tuesday evening, Aguilera and Phinisee were messaging back and forth on Instagram, and Phinisee’s parents had both contacted Leinenbach.

“I thought he would respond, but not as quickly,” Nicolas said Thursday night.

In his letter, Nicolas congratulated Phinisee on his buzzer-beater — a basket scored to win the game just before the final buzzer — in IU’s Saturday game, and shared that he, too, scored a buzzer-beater in his game on Sunday. Nicolas plays on the Villanova Jasper Youth Hoops team.

When Phinisee talked to Nicolas later on Instagram, the IU star congratulated him on the buzzer-beater.

Darron Cummings/AP
Indiana's Rob Phinisee (10) puts up the winning basket against Butler's Kamar Baldwin (3) Saturday in Indianapolis.

Nicolas also invited Phinisee to Jasper to watch him play.

“Maybe if Coach (Archie) Miller gives you some free time, you can come down to Jasper, Indiana to watch me play,” Nicolas wrote.

Possibly. Leinenbach has been Facebook messaging with Phinisee’s mother, and she shared Nicolas’ basketball schedule with the fellow basketball mom.

Nicolas also wrote, “You are a great inspiration to young players like me.”

“I think he really does what a point guard is supposed to do,” the fourth-grader said Thursday.

Nicolas said he never misses a Hoosiers game. His favorite games happen when the Hoosiers are up against a skilled team. In January, he will get to watch a game in person. Leinenbach said an assistant athletic director from IU called to give the family tickets to the Jan. 3 home game, a tour of the facilities and “other things.” Leinenbach hasn’t heard what the other things will be.

Nicolas hopes a meet-and-greet with Phinisee is one of those things.

“I really want to meet him,” he said.

Nicolas Aguilera's letter to Indiana University's Rob Phinisee.

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