Nicholson stays true to his roots

Aug 02, 2012 | by Iain Colpitts,

Andrew Nicholson has done everything the right way as far as his basketball career is concerned.
In a world where the top collegiate players in the United States can enter the NBA after their freshman season, the Mississauga native graduated from St. Bonaventure University near Buffalo with a physics degree before he was drafted 19th overall by the Orlando Magic in June's NBA draft.
This afternoon, Nicholson, 22, shared his knowledge with children from the PHASE 1 Academy, a Toronto-based program that held a development clinic for boys and girls at Riverdale Collegiate in East York.
For Nicholson, a PHASE 1 alum, it was a chance to give back to the program that helped him become the player he is today.
"I used to be one of those kids wearing those jerseys, too," said Nicholson, last year's Atlantic-10 Conference player of the year. "They need a positive role model and I'd like to show them that nothing is impossible with hard work and dedication. The sky's the limit and I guess I'm the epitome of that."
Not only did Nicholson carry the St. Bonaventure Bonnies to the 2011/12 Atlantic-10 title and their first appearance in the NCAA tournament since 2000, he also came close to obtaining a 4.0 grade-point average in his final year of university.
The Father Goetz Secondary School product credits his parents, Fabian and Colmaleen, for teaching him the importance of education and feels it's essential for all aspiring basketball players to show as much commitment in the classroom as they do on the court.
"Not a lot of kids take into account the academic side of basketball these days," he said. "The average career for a basketball player is four years and, after that, you're in your 20s and then what? Having an education and something to fall back on will definitely be an advantage to them."
Nicholson, a 6-foot-9 power forward, towered over the teenage participants on Thursday as he joined them in a series of drills and set plays orchestrated by PHASE 1 president Wayne Dawkins.
After each run up and down the court, Nicholson was quick to high-five his running mates and gave them tips and advice along the way.
Dawkins, a former NCAA Division I player and member of the Canadian national program, believes Nicholson is a one-of-a-kind athlete — someone who remains humble even after they've made it to the big stage.
"He's exactly what the (GTA) has been waiting for," Dawkins said. "We've been waiting for our own version of Steve Nash, a great human being who's humble. Education's a priority for him, he comes from a great family and he understands the importance of giving back."
Although he hasn't suited up with the Magic's everyday players yet, Nicholson was impressive in the NBA's summer rookie league last month.
He scored 24 points and collected 12 rebounds in the Magic's first game, a 92-88 win over the Brooklyn Nets, and averaged 12.8 points and 6.8 rebounds per game through the five-game season, good enough for a spot on the league's first all-star team.
Nicholson is heading back to Orlando shortly to get settled in before the Magic's training camp begins in September.
"I could improve on my ball handling and improving from the three-spot would help, too," Nicholson said of his goals. "As far as I know, getting bigger and stronger is the main thing (to work on)."

Tags: Andrew Nicholson , Orlando Magic