photo courtesy of gobonnies.sbu.edu
By Jeff Uveino
ST. BONAVENTURE, NY — The last time Andrew Nicholson was in the Reilly Center, a banner with his last name and former jersey number was unveiled from the rafters of the building.
On Wednesday night, Nicholson returned to a greeting that was similar to the one he received when his number 44 was retired by the St. Bonaventure men’s basketball program in 2016.
The RC gave a standing ovation to welcome back Nicholson, SBU’s second all-time leading scorer and former first-round NBA draft pick.
Before the Bonnies took on George Washington, Nicholson received his SBU all-time team plaque.
During the game, he talked about what it was like to be back at his alma mater, and the journey that his professional basketball career has taken him on.
“I had dinner with (Bonnies head coach) Mark Schmidt yesterday and saw a bunch of my old professors and friends,” Nicholson said. “Just being able to be on the floor and work out, and to remember when I was here, was amazing.”
Nicholson graduated from Bona’s in 2012 after scoring 2103 career points. The 6-9 power forward averaged 20.8 points and 7.3 rebounds his junior year, then 18.5 points and 8.3 rebounds per game his senior season.
He led the Bonnies to the 2012 Atlantic 10 championship and an NCAA tournament berth, and was named 2012 A-10 player of the year.
Nicholson was selected 19th overall by the Orlando Magic in the 2012 NBA draft. After playing five seasons in the association, he averaged six points per game in just over 14 minutes per game.
“The politics of the NBA are nothing that I could really escape from,” Nicholson said. “It happens to the best of us. But I got what I wanted out of it.”
After the NBA, Nicholson’s career took him to China, where he has quickly become a star in the Chinese Basketball Association.
“It’s definitely different than being (in North America),” Nicholson said. “It was hard to adjust my first year, but now that I’ve picked up on the language and the culture a little bit, it has made it easier for me.”
Playing for the Guangzhou Long-Lions, Nicholson averaged 27.6 points and 10.9 rebounds in 26 games this season before the league postponed the remainder of its season due to the ongoing coronavirus epidemic.
He averaged the same number of points per game over the 2018-19 season playing for the Fujian Sturgeons, and 24.3 points per game for the Guangdong Southern Tigers the year before.
Nicholson said that being back around SBU has been a nice change of pace, compared to life in professional basketball.
“With my lifestyle, I’m always staying in hotels and bouncing around,” he said. “Coming back to somewhere where I was for so long, it’s like coming back home.”
Now at age 30, Nicholson is appreciative that he can continue to play professionally. He said that he has learned to play the CBA style of basketball, and wants to play for as long as he can.
“Wherever the ball takes me, I’m always going to go and try to be the best version of myself.”