Andrew Nicholson is poised to become the best A-10 post player.
“I had a guy when I was an assistant at Xavier, David West. That’s how we look at Andrew — St. Bonaventure’s David West.”
Those are choice words that Coach Mark Schmidt uses to describe the Bonnies post Andrew Nicholson. The sophomore has definitely come a long way from being a recruiting afterthought.
After an ankle injury during a key recruiting period had kept him out of the some of the major summer tournaments before his senior year of high school, he flew under the radar for many schools. St. Bonaventure assistant coach Jeff Massey happened to see Nicholson at an open gym at his high school Father Goetz that fall and informed Coach Schmidt of his find. Not long after seeing him, Schmidt new that he had found a diamond in the rough.
“When you first saw him you got goose bumps watching him because the potential that he had was off the charts,” recalls Schmidt. “We knew he would be a good player but you never know when it gets to this level.”
And Nicholson has been nothing short of a pleasant surprise. Well, let’s say that he was off to a not so shabby start to his college career.
In a year that saw the Mississauga, ON native have one of the best freshman seasons in school history, Nicholson would cap it off by being named as the Freshman of the Year in the perennially tough Atlantic 10 Conference. In 25 minutes a game he averaged 12.5 points and 6.0 off the glass, good for second and third on the team respectively, after being inserted into the starting lineup early into the season. He also averaged 2.7 blocks and had a FG% of 60.2 which led all freshmen nationally with both ranking second in the A-10. Nicholson would also add several school records to his sure to be growing list of accomplishments including most Freshman of the Week honors (6), highest FG% in a season and most blocks in a game (9).
Those numbers speak volumes in ways the soft spoken chemistry major could ever do. And it’s because of those lofty credentials that teams this season will not be taken by surprise again. The bull’s eye is clearly fixed on him for the coming year and his notoriety will definitely precede him wherever he goes.
“Last year, Andrew came in with no one knowing who he was,” says Schmidt. “This year, he’s got a target on his chest. People know who he is and they got a game plan for him. To stop St. Bonaventure, one of the guys [other team needs] to stop is Andrew.”
But if the game plan includes trying to push him around, forget it. Teams, be put on notice now that Nicholson has been in the weight room this summer. Because of his lack of strength his freshman season, Andrew got out muscled by bigger players and it would lead to early foul trouble. With this as his focus in the summer (along with some chemistry classes), that shouldn’t be the case this year. With the likes of St. John’s, Syracuse, Mississippi State and pre season Top 25 conference mate Dayton on the schedule, he will need all added the strength he has to help anchor both the Bonnies defense and offense in the paint.
With his game still developing and his ability to take instruction, Schmidt has nothing but great things to say about Nicholson (who has been tabbed a preseason conference First-Team selection by some publications) and his comparison to David West is not a passing comment. Having worked with big men at Xavier, including two-time NBA All-Star West, Schmidt knows what he’s talking about. West was a raw post player when he arrived at college but, with help from Schmidt, ended his four years as a Musketeer as a three-time conference Player of the Year, an All-American in his senior year and an NBA first round pick. And Schmidt feels that Nicholson has the stuff.
“[West was] somebody that came in as a freshman, did a lot of dunking, playing inside. As he career went on, he was able to step away from the basket a little bit and that’s where we want Andrew to go. David was Freshman of the Year, Andrew did the same thing. I think Andrew has the tools to be good, how good I don’t know, but he has the tools to be a great player.”
With that potential still to be tapped and the current progress as an indicator, St. Bonaventure will look to push for a spot with the elite teams of the Atlantic 10. With four starters returning from a team that went from being picked to finish last to going 15-15, the Bonnies looked poised for the climb. But one thing is clear: This season they will go as far as Nicholson will grow and the future looks good right now. As Coach puts it, “The better Andrew is, the better we’ll be.”
Maybe you should get on the bandwagon now.
Ray Bala is a freelance sports writer from Toronto. Catch Ray covering all things Canadian basketball at Raptors HQ in The Can Ball Report.