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Andrew Nicholson: Deadly Combination



BasketballBuzz Magazine Issue 1 Andrew Nicholson Deadly Combination

It’s 4:30 P.M eastern time, half an hour before my scheduled interview with rising Canadian NBA star Andrew Nicholson, a member of the Orlando Magic and an integral piece of Canada’s basketball future. I quickly fill up my glass of water, glance at my notes and a few blinks later Nicholson and I finally connect as Team Canada wraps up another gruesome practice on a hot, steamy summer afternoon in Orlando, Florida.

After making his Canadian National team debut against Jamaica in front of family, friends and a cozy sold out Toronto home crowd, Nicholson is happy to be away from the distractions and satisfied to be back in familiar territory. Its a place he enjoys and is happy to call “his home, away from home.” However, when asked to compare which two cities he prefers, the soft spoken Nicholson is quick to remind all of us that his roots are deeply attached and ingrained to the Maple Leaf on the cover of this premier collectors issue.

“I love Orlando, it’s a fun place to be and our home arena is definitely my favorite, but Toronto is my city and I represent Canada to the fullest.”

He’s only 23 years old, and a year removed from a successful rookie campaign in which the 19th overall pick of the 2012 NBA Draft appeared in 75 games, averaging 7.8 points and 3.4 rebounds. The 6-foot-9, 255 pound forward is now set to embark on a journey unlike any he’s experienced before. Nicholson and Team Canada will get a taste of FIBA basketball and the physicality of the international game in hopes of bringing Canadian basketball back to a “New Era” of respectability and relevance on the global stage.

Team Canada

It seems not so long ago when Canada’s top talent would resort to sitting on Florida’s beaches rather than stressing themselves with the National team. Its long list of well documented problems often resulted in a boycott by high-level NBA players, leaving Canadian basketball fans with a sour taste of underachievement while further questioning the direction and leadership of the country’s top basketball program.

Current Dallas Mavericks centre and 13-year NBA veteran Samuel Dalembert comes to mind. After multiple years of fighting extremely hard to obtain his Canadian citizenship, Dalembert, a native of Haiti who was raised in Montreal was kicked off the National Team by former and controversial Head Coach Leo Rautins, who questioned Dalembert’s commitment and “prima donna” NBA ways. Dalembert’s dismissal at the prime of his career represented just how bad things were back in 2008 for a national organization surrounded by an abundance of growing and emerging talent. They lacked the leadership, respect and framework to attract and keep the few high-level NBA players in the league.

“Qualifying for the 2014 FIBA World Cup is extremely important to me and is something this group is obviously striving for said Nicholson.” Canadian basketball is headed in a new direction and I’m just glad to be a part of it,” added Nicholson while discussing his own lack of involvement with the national program in his younger days.

To think that a homegrown talent such as Andrew Nicholson, who grew up right in Canada’s basketball hotbed and arguably the top market for recruiting globally, otherwise known as Toronto, could have one day decided not to be a part of the national team, is just a ridiculous thought — yet, it’s another bona fide example that illustrates just how quickly Canadian basketball has grown over the past ten years and how fast it has accelerated in the last five years as the culture and mindset has started to change.

Despite never playing for Canada and maintaining a limited focus and interest in the national squad, Nicholson respects the players who have come before him and is appreciative of what they have done. “Yeah, I look up to all the current guys on the roster, it’s always an honor to represent your country, and the veterans on this team and previous rosters have paid their dues, now it’s our time to try and lead the National Team.”

High School & Recruiting

Andrew Nicholson’s rise to basketball stardom is unconventional. A late blooming homegrown basketball talent, Nicholson dreamt of striking out opponents in (Major League Basketball) rather than giving opposing big men nightmares on the hardwood with his developing, versatile all-star calibre game. It didn’t take long for the lanky 16-year-old to take advantage of his superior size and establish himself as a dominant force in the interior as well as on the perimeter. The skilled forward helped Father Michael Goetz reach new heights with back-to-back 4A OFSAA (Ontario Federation Student Athletic Association) appearances during his time at the Mississauga based school where he racked up MVP’s and double-doubles on his way to averaging 18 points, 13 rebounds and six blocks per game as senior.

Despite the tremendous upside, and comparisons to former number one pick Greg Oden (2007), a sprained ankle prevented Nicholson from showcasing his skills in front of NCAA coaches on the AAU circuit. Not to mention a broken cell phone, which he cracked by accidentally crushing it with his growing size 18 sneakers, further limited his ability to communicate when coaches attempted to reach out to him.

His limited exposure coupled with his decision to stay home and finish his high school career in Canada, rather than pack his bags and head down south like Cory Joseph and Tristan Thompson, didn’t help and led to only mid-major schools reaching out. One of the few schools intrigued by Nicholson’s talent was St. Bonaventure University, Head Coach Mark Schmidt who began coaching in 2007 to rebuild the Bonnies program which was in complete disarray after it was sanctioned by the NCAA for knowingly using an academically ineligible player in 2003.

Education First

When mulling over his options Nicholson quickly and carefully formulated all outcomes like a chemist, and eventually settled on the St. Bonaventure as it provided him with an opportunity to be part of a basketball program in overhaul. But what sealed the deal was not just the culture that Schmidt was creating in the locker room, but rather a shiny new building next to the confines of the 5,480-seat Reilly Center which he would call home for the next four years. The William F. Walsh Science Center, a sparkling new building, greatly appealed to Nicholson, who wanted to major in chemistry. “The Science Center at St. Bonaventure is a one of kind world class facility and I was excited to learn from that type of environment and with the situation that the basketball program was in at the time, it was the perfect opportunity for me to go in and just do my thing.”

“My parents have always taught me the value of education first and the importance of doing something meaningful,” acknowledges Nicholson.

Unwilling to disappoint his parents in the classroom Nicholson was forced to switch from chemistry to physics as his lab hours often conflicted with practice schedules. In an effort to improve his grades and polish his skills on the hardwood, he stayed in the lab in Allegany, New York during the summers, instead of making the three and a half hour drive north to Toronto. His hard work and dedication both on and off the court paid off as Nicholson went from a virtually unknown prospect to making his parents proud with his Physics degree. In the process he revived and became the face of a Bonnies program in desperate need of a new identity, not seen since the days of NBA Hall-Famer Bob Lanier, who was selected number one overall by the Detroit Pistons in 1970, and is highly regarded as “one, of the game’s greatest big men.”

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Freshmen Nicholson wasted no time making his presence felt for the Bonnies earning 2008-09 Atlantic-10 Freshman of the Year by averaging 12 points, 6 rebounds and 2.7 blocks to set the Bonnies field goal percentage record to a staggering 60.2%. By time his senior year came around Nicholson further polished his game by adding a consistent 3-point shot to his already lethal arsenal and just about convinced the rest of Canada and America that he was the real deal. The Bonnies won seven of their last eight games thanks to his 26 points, 14 rebounds and eight blocked shots to lead the Bonnies to an improbable Atlantic-10 Championship over Xavier and earn a trip to NCAA tournament for the first time since 2000.

Ranked 14th in the big dance the Bonnies fought hard for nearly forty minutes and nearly upset the #3 Florida State Seminoles, coming up short 69-60 in their opening round game of the 2012 tournament. The close loss ended Nicholson’s collegiate career as the school’s second all-time leading scorer with 2,103 career-points. Nicholson earned an All-American Honorable Mention and became the first player to take home both Atlantic-10 Rookie and Player of the Year honors with an average of 17 points, 7.2 rebounds and two blocked shots in his time with the Bonnies

FIBA Americas

As our interview comes to a close Nicholson was confident and well aware of the challenges Canada will face as it attempts to qualify for the 2014 FIBA World Cup. He believes that despite their inexperience they have enough talent to dethrone powerhouses like Argentina and Brazil, who along with the USA have traditionally represented the Americas zone at both the World Championships and Olympic stages. “We are missing some key guys but we will go out there and compete hard and try to accomplish our goal of qualifying. We’ve had a tough and intense training camp and are gelling together every day.” In an effort to find the right chemistry and combinations on the floor, head coach Jay Triano experimented with his lineup ahead of the FIBA Americas as Canada went 0-4 at the 2013 Tuto Marchand Continental Cup, serving as a tune up for the World Cup qualifier.

Despite the dismal showing by the young inexperienced Canadians, Andrew Nicholson continued to show signs of brilliance by leading the team in scoring with 15 points per game while showcasing more confidence in his three-point shot, nailing 6-of-7 shots from beyond the arc.

Canada and Nicholson halted their four game losing streak by opening the 2013 FIBA Americas with their third win of the summer against Jamaica. Canada’s trio of Cory Joseph, Tristan Thompson and Nicholson took charge in key moments against Brazil, a team Canada had not defeated in 10 years and fought off a near 9-hour power outage across Venezuela in the last group game against Uruguay. Finishing the opening round of the tournament with a 3-1 record, good for second place in Group A.

With the second round looming closer and Canada needing a top four finish to advance to the World Cup, Nicholson and Canadian basketball fans back home and abroad were finally starting to get a taste of international success. The national team opened up the second round by routing eventual champions Mexico 89-69 to push their record to 4-1 and three-game winning streak had everyone including the announcers in Caracas, jumping on the Canadian bandwagon, by not only declaring them favorites to win the Americas championships, but a potential threat at next year’s World Cup when some of their missing key guys joined the rest of the squad.

Unfortunately for Canada and Andrew Nicholson their inexperience and lack of execution in the late stages of close games against the cream of the crop of the Americas zone caught up with them. The National team dropped three-straight games including a nail-biting 73-67 loss at hands of Argentina that suddenly left Canada’s 2014 FIBA Word Cup hopes at the mercy of FIBA delegates who will award four wildcard spots between 15 nations in January 2014.

For Nicholson, despite a few moments of immaturity and perhaps some bad international officiating, the lessons were learned – in eight games at the FIBA Americas Nicholson averaged 15 points, 3.4 rebounds, connected on 55% of his field goals and was above average from the outside – burying 45.5% of his open looks including a near perfect 94.7% from the free-throw line.

Not only did Nicholson lead, he at times was Canada’s best player on the floor by displaying flashes of brilliance while keeping his defenders off balance with a deadly combination of soft right and left hand hook shots that are sure to bode
well for Canada and the Magic in the years ahead.

Nicholson outlines his next steps, “get stronger, improve my rebounding and defend better by not picking up costly fouls.” As long as Nicholson is able to master these remaining disciplines, which should come easy for a guy with a degree in Physics who is accustomed to solving complex formulas, then he and Canadian basketball fans will truly enjoy watching Nicholson and the “New Era” of Canadian basketball.


New Toronto ‘City’ Jerseys Point North To The 6



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Six Flag

Better late and sharp to the party than never looking fly.

Sometimes in the streets of Toronto you just have to wait for a good thing. Like that CN Tower forever in the distance drive from Pearson Airport to the downtown dot. Or waiting for a table and menu for something good to eat at Jack Astor’s on any given night. But Drake always delivers from serving up playlist picks to albums that offer ‘VIEWS’ that honour the great city of the six. So you know if you’re reading this it’s never really too late.

Now after Nike just gave us ‘Association’, ‘Icon’ and real ‘Statement’ jerseys for the new season where they are now the official uniform supplier of this National Basketball Association the ‘City’ line is complete like riding a Matt Bonner tram from King Street West to the Air Canada Center. As Toronto didn’t want to be left out like Kyrie Irving didn’t want to be the next Dwyane Wade. Now the only one rocking sleeves like Adidas is Lakers rook Lonzo again, looking to ball like his UCLA alumni days. Forget Christmas Day, unless you’re rocking Sixers script. As for the 6, the new Toronto Raptors jerseys that go back to black like the late, great Amy Winehouse with Octobers Very Own gold, couldn’t be more Drake or OVO if they had that Owl hooting from the shooting shorts. And you know these third blackouts will be a permanent fixture on ‘Drake Nights’ when the Raps court will be decked out in the black gold same lining.

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But these new duds that All-Star ‘Step Brothers’ DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry will rock like Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly did ugly sweater vests are less ‘Hotline Bling’ and more for the town he calls his own for the citizens of Toronto. ‘They The North’ and have that in six court copying chevrons that in glittering gold, road point to this very Canadian NBA destination. Do you see. And if you don’t know, now you know…player.

This is B.I.G. for the notorious north OVO town of the six. We’ve had the ATL neon, Boston parquet, Lakers Black Mamba snakeskin, Cleveland Land, Detroit ‘Motor City’ industry, New York’s F.D.N.Y. department, the Suns not losing the ‘Los’ love and Chicago’s classic city edition. But nothing for the homestand looks as good as this to the T-Dot.

And with all six signs pointing north to Toronto, we only wish these Raptors threads could be put on for the city every night.

Now the only ‘Fallen Kingdom’ in this Jurassic World will be found in cinemas with Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard and Jeff Goldblum this summer season Blue.

It took a minute for the sap to meet the tree but the Raptors and the Toronto city they call home are far from extinct.

Nike finds a way.

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The ‘Human Highlight Film’ Dominique Wilkins Almost Made ‘Showtime’ Worthy



How Unique Would The Lakers Have Been With 'Nique?
Hollywood’s show kept fast break rolling last night like a Golden Globe as the young Lakers finally snapped their losing trend by clipping the Atlanta Hawks, 132-113 at STAPLES. All behind 20 points from Brandon Ingram, 15 and 9 from Julius Randle and 13, 10 and 6 from rookie Lonzo Ball. J.C. with 18 and K.C.P. with 14 also had three three’s each as the Lakers made a sweet 16 season best from downtown, to go along with a franchise record 42 points off fast breaks on a momentous night for the storied franchises record books.
It kind of looks like Showtime’s go on all over again.
But straight from the Fox Sports hole pregame did you know that back in the 80’s day the NBA’s Hall of Fame, Human Highlight Film, Dominique Wilkins was almost drafted by the Los Angeles Lakers to be the centerpiece of Showtime? The Atlanta Hawk legend who has a statue outside the ATL arena like all the Magic, Kareem’s, big fellas and logos outside Lakerland told us himself play-by-play as part of the pregame panel.
“Jerry Buss didn’t want me but Jerry West did”, ‘Nique said with warm affection to what could have been. And we can’t help muse like Shea Serrano’s brilliant ‘Basketball And Other Stories’ book to what legacy and Laker legend would have been like if the Basketball God’s didn’t cast down a thunderbolt. You see apparantly it all came down to an injury to Lakers Celtic bruising forward Mitch Kupchak, which will no doubt leave some Laker fans thinking this may be the first time but not the only time their former G.M. Mitch has messed up things for the Lake Show.
Kupchak’s season crippling injury made Buss want to go bigger and taller. And the rest is Big Game history as the Lakers drafted Wilkins’ fellow North Carolina alumnus James Worthy who made his own H.O.F. career more than just his second name that resides in the forever rafters like 42. The second in goggle command behind Cap remains one of the Lakers and the league as a whole’s most underrated legend.
But we can’t help but think what it would be like if we just looked up at the STAPLES ceiling and saw Dominique’s name up there like Kobe’s too (or two) with his 21 in that acclaimed area. It would have certainly brought more hard-nosed hostility to those Larry Bird fights and more Hollywood to that iconic Slam Dunk Contest between the Human Highlight and the G.O.A.T., M.J. And could you have imagined the Magic between a player who finished his career with Orlando and actually the legendary Boston Celtics and the man with the top hat himself Earvin Johnson? Now you thought watching Lake Show greats A.C. Green and former coach Byron Scott was good.
In the end it was all scripted the right way. The Lakers had their own Big Game dunking James worthy of a King and Dominique Wilkins soared as a Hawk in the A. But if Magic’s all smiling Showtime had a few more Human Highlights for the film? Now that would be something straight out of Hollywood.
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LeBron’s Land Now Has I.T. Support



Portland Trail Blazers V Cleveland Cavaliers
I.T. Follows All The Kings Men

Cleveland plainly dealed their point prince Kyrie Irving away from the King’s Cavalier land this Summer, to make the NBA’s historical Boston Celtics storied again behind their new superstar handle. And in return they got a glorious gunner with an 80’s iconic name, albeit one hip checked to the new year with injury.

But even if Christmas has come late this year like changing your calendar to 2018, Isaiah Thomas is back like you’ve never seen him before, like a Detroit Piston legend kissing and making up with an 80’s Showtime one in an emotional NBA TV reunion.

Now that’s Magic!

Like Pennywise the clown, injury tempted I.T.’s reign into the gutter for the opening chapter of his story with the King like he was wearing a yellow raincoat. But just wait for part two…it’s about to get slicker as forget arms, Thomas is about to take everyone’s legs off from the ankles up.

He’ll float too.

The land was in need of a hand. One that even the way of Wade couldn’t help after the thorn that went in probably retired, former franchise player Derrick Rose’s side. And now they have it all for one and one for all in I.T.’s support. The King now has a fellow crowning talent ready to hold the throne with. Isaiah Thomas’ return to the trail against Portland was blazing too. Normally a nice 17 points and 3 assists would seem modest for a pocket dynamo of this young Iverson’s stature, but when we answer that it came in just 19 minutes of burn than you know it’s something else altogether.

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It’s the makings of something greater.

But all that failed to blend in Beantown as his reunion with the Celtics he was supposed to retire with and his renewed rivalry with the guard he was traded for was put on a DNP-CD hold (at least he too made up with 80’s great Danny Ainge). But the whole event game of the night turned out to be a wash-out as the Celtics 102-88 scrubbing of the Cavaliers on polished parquet only saw the real rivalry of James (19) and Kyrie (11) amass less than 20 points each when this explosive TNT match-up should have gone 30 for 30 for ESPN.

Still Ohio will rise again when the King and I.T. return to their land and maybe even the promised ones of the NBA Finals. As another Celts/Cavs conference finals match-up without Gordon Hayward and this time more Love could beat towards the heart of a lion. And the five foot something with a headband has plenty of that under his too.

And you best believe tooth and hip surgery nail he’s going to leave it blood, sweat and tears all on the parquet this playoff postseason.

But this time instead of against one, Isaiah won’t just be running alongside a King…he’ll be one.

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