Nicholson’s NBA Career on the Rise Again
By: Mike Morgan, Contributor
Andrew Nicholson’s NBA career has been nothing short of interesting. The ups and downs have been aplenty for the Canadian big man who made himself a legend in Olean following the Bonnies 2012 season where he led them to an A10 title.
The former Bonnie, drafted in the first round by the Orlando Magic in 2012, had a remarkable rookie year. Nicholson was averaging nearly 17 minutes a game and 8 points, while starting 28 games. He earned a spot in the NBA’s Rookie vs. Sophomore game. Bona fans were not surprised by this performance and a solid NBA career seemed to lay ahead. The player whose number 44 hangs in the rafters of the RC had translated his vast offensive game to the NBA without issue. Nicholson’s star was rising on a young Magic team who looked to build their core around the former Bonnie big man.
However, the best laid plans often go to waste.
His second and third seasons did not go as planned and Nicholson’s production and playing time dropped off dramatically. A move to a more aggressive shooting power forward seemed to hurt Nicholson’s development as a player. The Magic expected Nicholson to hit outside jumpers, in addition to his fancy footwork around the rim. Nicholson did not respond to this request as well as former coach Jacque Vaughn would have liked and he fell further out of the Magic’s rotation. Throw in the lack of adequate defense and Nicholson’s NBA career seemed to derail. During his second and third seasons Nicholson shot just 42% from the field and 71% from the line. His defense was often used as a reason for benching the big man.
Questions about Nicholson’s future in the NBA after his fourth season were asked; and justifiably so.
Nicholson began his fourth NBA season the same place the last two ended – on the bench. He earned only 7 minutes in the first 11 games. The Magic started the season slowly and lackadaisically and forced new coach Scott Skiles into changing things up a bit. These changes not only re-energized the Magic, but Nicholson’s NBA career as well. Skiles put Nicholson in a place to succeed; demanding Andrew dominate in the post, not outside the three point line. He allowed Nicholson to play within his comfort zone, showing flashes of those post moves that he displayed on a nightly basis in the Atlantic 10.
Nicholson is routinely the first man off the bench for the Magic now and his minutes played per game are the highest of his career (19.7 minutes). His production is also the highest in his four seasons. Vaughn’s offensive strategies took Nicholson away from the hoop and when his shots weren’t falling, his confidence faded from all aspects of his game and waned even farther when playing time was rare.
“Working hard is the only thing I know. When things aren’t going your way, you just keep working and you’ll eventually be rewarded,’’ Nicholson told the BonaBlog in an interview. Drew is averaging 8.7 points and 4.8 rebounds on the season.His shooting percentage is up to 47%, a mark that would be the best since his rookie season. His 40% shooting from three point range is a clear indication that by allowing the game to come to him, Nicholson has excelled. “I’ve always been able to shoot. You saw me at Bonas. I was in a position to shoot there and so I did.”
His rebounding game has also improved as Drew is hauling down 4.8 rebounds per game, by far his best mark as a Magic player. “Preparation meets opportunity and that’s when I have success.”
Nicholson has certainly made the most of his fourth season opportunity.
Nicholson has earned the trust of Skiles and his coaching staff and it appears that this role is a permanent one. Whether Nicholson remains in Orlando following this season is anyone’s guess – the team is loaded at the power forward position – but Nicholson has definitely reaffirmed that his talents are for real and could provide another NBA team with an offensive spark.
“Whether I’m playing or not, I just keep my routine and I get my extra work in before and after practices and games,’’ he said. “I still put in the work and the time to stay focused. And when I go out there, they trust me.’’
Bonnies fans around the country still keep tabs on Andrew, checking Magic boxscores whenever they play. This season, they’ve had plenty to be happy about. Another few months of similar play and Nicholson can expect to keep his place on an NBA roster and provide BonaNation with more Thunderdunks in the Association for years to come.
We’re pulling for you ‘Drew, keep up the great work.