Belade scored close to 400 points that year, and with continued success, breaking the school record for career points (both genders) certainly seemed like a legitimate possibility.
But shortly after her freshman campaign ended, Belade’s healthy began to decline. On April 16, 2013, Belade was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, an inflammatory bowel disease that affects the lining of the colon. Belade became anemic and missed school often.
“It was the worse case in a 14-year old girl that the doctors have ever seen,” Belade said.
Belade was treated with steroids to control the disease, but it caused her to gain weight, all of which affected her performance on the court as a sophomore. But Belade never missed a game that year.
“I was really tired,” Belade said. “Sophomore year was my hardest year trying to run up and down the court. I suffered through every pain that I had, just put it aside and went out there and played. I didn’t even want to wake up and go to school sometimes.”
Her condition seemed to stabilize as a junior, although she did experience painful stomach aches due to her illness, sometimes even during games. This past summer she had two seven and a half hour surgeries to remove her colon. She spent 21 days in the hospital and missed the entire AAU season.
Despite the illness, Belade is on the doorstep of history. Weather permitting, she will set the school record for career points Monday at home against Kaynor Tech. Tip off is scheduled for 6 p.m.
Belade is currently tied with former Condors standout Jackie Venice with 1,532 career points. Belade was 6 when Venice set the record before graduating in 2005. Belade and Venice have since become close friends with Belade being a member of Venice’s bridal party in 2014.
“I never thought it would ever really happen,” Belade said. “Being both boys and girls No. 1, I think I always thought about it ever since I was little, but finally achieving it, I think it means so much. I don’t think there’s any words I can express how much it means to me.”
Potentially setting the record in front of a home crowd would be especially rewarding.
“I’m going to have a lot of my friends and family there that are not usually able to see me,” Belade said. “Having it being home is going to be even more special.”
Mark Belade, Nicole’s father and the O’Brien Tech head coach for the past 16 seasons, thought there was a good chance for Nicole to set the record after her stellar performance as a freshman. But even Mark Belade admitted he had his doubts after she became ill.
“When she got ill, it was questionable,” Mark Belade said. “She worked hard at it. She worked hard at getting where she is as far as her health issues and trying to stay focused. Once she started to be able to deal with her illness and learn how to deal with it, I think she started getting better and better from that point. With the surgeries this summer, she’s been pain free pretty much through the games and is just having a fantastic season.”
Earlier this season, Nicole Belade broke Venice’s single-game scoring record. Belade netted 42 points, one more than the previous record. Last season, Nicole Belade became the first girl in school history to be named to the Class S coaches all-state team as a junior. She was also the first, girl or boy, to reach 1,000 career points as a junior. Nicole Belade, who is ranked seventh in her senior class, is expected to enroll in nursing school.
“I wanted to be a teacher, but then I got into the nursing field,” Nicole Belade said. “All the help the nurses did on me, I would like to bring that same support to people who are having the same issues.”
Nicole Belade learned some valuable lessons about herself throughout her ordeal.
“That I can push through anything, that nothing is going to stop me in anyway possible,” she said. “I’ve been through hell and back pretty much. I learned that if one thing comes in the way you may stumble, but then you walk right over it and continue going.”
Even if Monday’s predicated inclement weather postpones Nicole’s record-setting game a day or two, it will certainly be an emotional event for both father and daughter whenever the record is set.
“It’s been bittersweet that we’re at this record setting night,” Mark Belade said. “I look back at all the pain and the operations, and everything she had to go through and endure to get to this point, and how she battled and never complained. She always tried to stay as positive as she could. We’re glad to see it ending this way.”