GULFPORT - Southern Miss was the first visit Gulfport senior right-handed pitcher Alex Nelms made in July when he began his tour to decide where he'd attend college.
He leaned toward committing on the spot when he was offered a baseball scholarship, but USM head coach Scott Berry encouraged him to take his time.
After a handful of visits, Nelms was still convinced USM was the right place for him.
"The rest of (the colleges), I was sitting there comparing them to Southern Miss," Nelms said. "Every time, Southern Miss beat it in every category - coaching staff, the (baseball stadium), the school."
Nelms signed with Southern Miss on Wednesday with family members, teammates and his coaches on hand to celebrate the occasion at Bert Jenkins Gymnasium.
Nelms also received interest from Northwestern State, Southeastern Louisiana and Army West Point.
The 6-foot-3, 190-pound Nelms is coming off a junior season where he had a record of 3-4 and an ERA of 1.98 in 12 appearances. He led the Admirals in strikeouts with 56 and walked just 10 in 56 2/3 innings. He made nine starts and had a pair of shutouts.
Nelms had a strong summer that increased interest from college programs. When coaches found out how strong he is in the classroom, Nelms became that much more attractive as a prospect.
Nelms carries a GPA near 4.0 and has an ACT score of 33.
"He's an unbelievable student," Gulfport coach Jamie McMahon said. "He's one of the smartest kids at the school and just an overall unbelievable kid."
Nelms plans to take part in the Honors College at Southern Miss and study biology. He hopes to attend medical school.
McMahon believes that Nelms has the potential to be a starting pitcher for the Golden Eagles.
"He locates his fastball extremely well," McMahon said. "His cutter is hard to hit and he has a breaking ball he can use when he needs to. Over the summer, he developed a changeup. He's a four-pitch guy who can throw strikes with all four. That makes him a top commodity."
Nelms has a fastball that tops out at 86-87 miles an hour.
Nelms, who is also an infielder for Gulfport, batted .234 with 19 runs scored as a junior.