There’s an old saying out there somewhere about idle hands.
Erin Nyhus probably doesn’t know it. And she certainly hasn’t lived it.
On Tuesday, the Brodhead High senior used her hands to become the school’s girls basketball program’s all-time leading scorer.
On Saturday, she let her fingers do the walking and talking while playing the piano at a state solo and ensemble competition for the fourth time in the past five years.
Chances are fairly high that if you run into Nyhus, she’ll either be shooting hoops or tickling the ivories. She refers to the activities as her first and second loves, and she’s never been afraid to put in the work necessary to succeed at the highest levels.
“Every drill, she’s trying to outwork everybody else. She really only has one speed she knows, and that’s to work as hard as she possibly can,” Brodhead athletic director and girls basketball coach Brian Kammerer said. “There are times when I have to tell her to back off a little bit.
“That’s how she’s been for four years. And I think that’s why she’s respected so highly from her teammates and former teammates.”
Nyhus said her parents tell her stories of her picking up a basketball as a young girl and passing it around the family kitchen. She jokes that’s when they knew she’d be a basketball player, and they quickly signed her up for the Upward Sports program out of Illinois by the time she was in second grade.
She joined an AAU program by fifth grade and credits that experience for pushing her outside of her comfort zone and increasing her competitiveness.
By eighth grade, Nyhus was the manager for the Brodhead High program when it reached the WIAA state tournament for the only time in program history.
“I looked up to a lot of those girls,” Nyhus said. “They were really good role models for me. I wanted to work hard as much as they did. To see them succeed, I wanted to be just like that and have that same work ethic.”
The next year, Nyhus’ freshman campaign, the Cardinals were charged with filling the shoes of Carly Mohns—then the program’s all-time career scoring leader who was off to play for the University of Iowa.
Nyhus was of immediate help. While certainly not stepping directly into Mohns’ role, Nyhus played in all 25 games and averaged more than 11 points for a team that reached the WIAA Division 3 sectional semifinals.
And Nyhus increased her average to more than 15 points per game as a sophomore, playing along with Kylie Moe, who took over as the program’s career scoring leader. Nyhus made a critical 3-pointer that season to send the Cardinals to a regional semifinal win over Lakeside Lutheran.
“I like to improve on things and push myself out of my comfort zone,” Nyhus said. “And just seeing the results from that is what I like. Just keep practicing basketball, practicing piano, and the results will come.”
Sometimes, though, the equation is not that easy.
In April 2016, coming off her impressive sophomore year, Nyhus tore the ACL in her knee while playing AAU basketball.
“When it happened, I was really devastated,” she said. “I thought, ‘What if I can’t play basketball anymore?’”
Just like with everything else, Nyhus pushed herself during her rehabilitation to not only make sure she’d return to the court, but to do it in rapid fashion.
“I was out helping a friend work on a project at his house (later in 2016), and Erin didn’t know I was out and about in her area,” Kammerer said. “I stepped outside—and she was in a brace and not cleared to play yet—and she was out in the road running by herself, because she was trying to get back as quick as she could.”
“I wasn’t trying to overdo anything, because that wouldn’t be good,” Nyhus said. “But I just tried to work hard and get better every day.”
Nyhus was back by the end of volleyball season that fall, mostly lending a hand—pun intended—as a designated server.
That little bit of volleyball action allowed her to regain confidence in her knee heading into her junior basketball season, where she picked up right where she left off. Nyhus averaged 16.8 points, including scoring 43 in the second game of the year.
As a senior, Nyhus is averaging 20.5 points per game. In Tuesday’s victory over Evansville, she scored 27, giving her one more than Moe and making her the Cardinals’ all-time leading scorer.
“The two on top lately are Carly Mohns, who is playing Big Ten basketball in Iowa, and Kylie Moe, who went and played at Oshkosh,” Kammerer said. “You go down the list of tremendous female athletes we’ve had here in Brodhead, and I think to be in the mix with those names is an honor in itself.”
“It’s really special to me,” Nyhus said of the scoring title. “My goal from freshman year was just to improve each year. But to hit that record just means a lot. I worked really hard, and had really good teammates throughout the years to help me and a really good coaching staff.”
Nyhus also credits her family—mother Ann, father Terry and brother Garret—for supporting her in all her activities from a young age.
She’ll enter the postseason with 1,483 career points and hoping to help the Cardinals make one last playoff run.
After graduation this spring, she plans to go to UW-Stevens Point, where she’ll play basketball in the competitive Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.
When she’s not playing or taking notes, perhaps while studying communication sciences and disorders, it’s a safe bet Nyhus will be perched on a piano bench.
To her, there’s no such thing as idle hands.