Seven years ago yesterday …

cropped-drewyell1.jpgSeven years ago yesterday, everything changed for the St. Bonaventure basketball program.

Oct. 16, 2007 was the day Andrew Nicholson verbally committed to the Bonnies.

Before Nicholson joined the team the following season, SBU had won 33 games and lost 136 over the previous six years. The Bonnies never won more than eight games in a season during that stretch. They sunk to new lows.

With Nicholson, St. Bonaventure reached new highs.

Nicholson was rated the top post player in Canada when he committed to the Bonnies, but he was mostly an unknown among college coaches in the U.S.

When Nicholson chose St. Bonaventure, he picked the Bonnies over Duquesne, Niagara, St. John’s and Buffalo. During Nicholson’s junior year at Father Goetz in Mississauga, Ontario, his most notable suitors were St. Peter’s and Cornell.

At that point, Nicholson had no desire to play college basketball in the U.S.

But, in an interview with Nicholson the day he committed to SBU, he told me: “I just came to realize that the States had better basketball. I really didn’t want to leave home, but St. Bonaventure is right down the street.”

Ro Russell, a power player in Canadian AAU hoops, called Nicholson a “hidden gem.”

When Nicholson signed with the Bonnies a month later, coach Mark Schmidt compared him to fellow Canadian Caswell Cyrus. It turned out that Nicholson was Cyrus with an offensive repertoire to match his defensive and rebounding prowess.

Nicholson “has all the God-given abilities,” Schmidt said the day the big man signed. “He can do stuff that you can’t teach. When I first went up and saw him I got goose bumps thinking about how good a player he could become.”

Of course, Schmidt’s vision was verified as Nicholson became the Atlantic 10 player of the year, a first round NBA draft pick and one of the greatest Bonnies of all time.

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