For the Love of the Game A Big City Girl Moves to Hanover

This story was featured in the Harvard (Jan. 26) game program

Nicola Zimmer is a city girl at heart. She hails from Chevy Chase, Md., just outside of Washington D.C. and loves everything about the city, but she finds herself lacing up her sneakers for the Dartmouth women's basketball team in Hanover, N.H., a far cry from the hustle and bustle of Washington, D.C.

"When I first heard about Dartmouth, without knowing anything about it or the basketball aspect of it, I said NO," said Zimmer. "I love the city, just the diversity and everything that a city has to offer so I said 'sorry Dad, sorry Mom, I can't do it.' Of course this was before I visited, but once I visited I really got a community feel and I loved the team and the coaches so that was a big draw."

Lucky for Dartmouth women's basketball fans, Zimmer is here and has been bringing her big-city game to Leede Arena. Zimmer, who has started each of her 51 games for the Big Green, has the distinction of being the first freshman to start her first collegiate game since 2004 and became the first rookie to start at point guard since 2002. Her collegiate career hasn't been without it trials, as her rookie season was cut short with injury and she's battled a few bumps and bruises along the way.

Basketball is something that Zimmer has always had a thing for and her father, Robert tells the story of when she first experienced the game.

"She was about five sitting in a chair, watching me shoot on a Nerf basketball hoop and I look over and her eyes are lighting up." 

From there, the rest is history.

Zimmer may be partial, but she refers to basketball as "the best sport in the world"

"It's quick and a lot of mental, which is why I love it," said Zimmer. "It really is a thinking game and I have to do a lot of that, especially as a point guard. I'm the quarterback and I have to make fast decisions. I can't lie, I love to put the ball in the hoop, but I also love the team aspect of it. There is nothing better than when you and your teammates succeed."

When the 5-9 guard thinks of Dartmouth women's basketball, she states that it's a team on the rise.

"We've seen flashes of greatness this season and we're still coming together, which makes it that much more exciting. When it clicks for us, we're a hardworking team that loves to share the ball and likes to get out and run. Although our record doesn't reflect it now, a lot of teams are going to underestimate us and we love that." 

When asked about her teammates, Zimmer's face lights up and it's obvious that this city girl has gained a family here in Hanover.

"There are some days when I'm having a bad day and I get to the lockerroom and I think 'they just make me so happy', said Zimmer. "We've just really clicked, especially this year. We have a great team and we have a lot of different personalities that fit really well together. We're a fun team, we don't take ourselves too seriously and we love joking around and picking on each other, but at the end of the day we're all there for each other."

Zimmer joins with Eve Zelinger to form the junior class and since there are just two of them, they really act more like sisters.

"I don't think you could find two more opposite best friends," said Zimmer. "We did the Meyers-Briggs testing as a team earlier this year and our profiles were just complete opposites. That being said, she's like my sister and my teammate all rolled into one and it really doesn't get much better than that."

The two jokingly call themselves "sisters in hair" because they form a very curly pair as both have long curly locks. Zimmer's locks have become somewhat of a trademark and she's often recognized for her hair.

"My hair has become my mojo," said Zimmer. "It's kind of to the point where if I'm wearing it in a braid or up in a bun, it just doesn't feel right."

All hair, I mean, jokes aside, Zimmer serves as co-captain of the 2012-13 squad and it's something she takes very seriously and an honor she's been working toward throughout her collegiate career.

"Being a captain has been great, but it's also definitely a challenge," said Zimmer. "The word leader sounds great and it's a great title to have but the day-to-day work takes a commitment and I think that Faziah (Steen) and I have been doing a good job.  You learn a lot about people. Certain people respond to different forms of leadership and that's a challenge, but it's a challenge that I've enjoyed and look forward to."

Zimmer has no idea what she wants to do when she "grows up" but she does know that no matter what she does it will involve helping people and this city girl will more than likely move closer to her beloved D.C. area. While Hanover isn't the metropolis of Washington, D.C, Dartmouth and women's basketball fans are certainly glad Zimmer (and her hair) chose to come and be a part of our team.