By Paul Casey Gotham
If his stats were any gaudier they would be on display at Tussad’s Wax Museum. Imagine that. Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe, Superman and Andrew Nicholson‘s collection of double-doubles. That is if one could somehow represent the senior forward’s 26-point, 14-rebound performance in the Atlantic 10 championship game. Not to mention his eight blocks that set an A-10 championship game record.
Maybe they could cast his 32-point, 14-rebound showing when his St. Bonaventure Bonnies defeated the St. Joseph’s Hawks to clinch a first-round bye in last week’s Atlantic 10 conference championship.
Or would they use the senior forward’s double-vision outpouring of 21 points and 23 boards versus Duquesne?
Why stop there?
Set his 2,083 career points and 880 boards in a mold. They might even try a combined effort with Nicholson and “The King.” They could hang the words “Return to Sender” overhead as Nicholson swats one of the 242 opposing shots he has rendered with an “address unknown.”
With all of those numbers it’s hard to imagine another statistic.
But there is. It is subtle.
An example came early in the A-10 championship game. Nicholson caught a pass on the left block. Xavier’s post players adjusted. Andre Walker went to the baseline side. Kenny Frease dropped off his man to protect the middle of the lane. Dezmine Wells filled his part of the interior defense by dropping down from the opposite wing.
Nicholson made the slightest of glances over his shoulder. He recognized the defense and quickly reacted flicking an inside-out pass from the post to Da’Quan Cook at the top of the key. Without hesitation, Cook kept the ball moving to the opposite side of the floor where Charlon Kloof hit a catch-and-shoot three.
Three points registered on the Boardwalk Hall scoreboard. Kloof got credit for the basket, Cook earned an assist. Nicholson started it with a pass out of the post.
Had this been hockey, Nicholson would earn the assist, but basketball only credits one dime per play. It’s only fitting that the native of Mississauga, Ontario, where the game played on frozen pond is king, has added this pass to his already potent arsenal. It is as if he was put to sleep at night with stories of Dave Keon who starred for the great teams of the nearby Toronto Maple Leafs.
“This year we finally found our spot when Drew catches the ball in the post,” said teammate Matthew Wright at yesterday’s press conference in Nashville. “When they double, Drew has gotten a lot better of a pass serve and became a lot smarter, hitting the right person.”
The play only happens once or twice per game, but it is a back-breaker for opposing defenses looking to catch Nicholson in a vise grip.
In the A-10 semi-finals, with the UMass Minutemen rallying from 17 to four down, Nicholson, again, responded. Sean Carter and Terrell Vinson collapsed as the senior forward caught the ball on the block. Nicholson feathered a pass to Charlon Kloof who, in turn, continued ball movement to Demtrius Conger for a wide open trey.
“It’s been more of a team thing,” Nicholson explained. “When I get double teamed, they find the open spot so I can pass it to them. Previously, we weren’t so good at that, but we got much better at that throughout the year.”
Nicholson’s ability to pass out of the post will get tested in Friday’s NCAA Tournament second round game against the Florida State Seminoles. The Seminoles are coming off an ACC Championship where they beat North Carolina and Duke on consecutive days. Florida State’s field goal percentage defense (.381) ranks fifth in the country. Their 5.9 blocks per game is seventh in the country.
“They’re going to front us. They’re looking to load up the backside, and teams have done that against us,” explained Bona coach Mark Schmidt. “They’re going to be really physical, and teams have done that against us. Now, their length is a big concern, you know, fronting the post and having the length on the backside. So it’s going to be a great challenge, believe me. They’re a great defensive team and they played better teams than Bonaventure and have stopped them. We got our work cut out for us.”
A victory for Bonaventure and Nicholson might earn himself a whole wing at the wax museum. Better yet, he might trigger conversations of casting his accomplishments in bronze.