Coming out of high school, Ryan Nicholas was a one-star recruit according to ESPN. Even though Nicholas played an integral role on a Gonzaga Prep team that made it to the quarterfinals of the 4A Washington State Basketball Tournament, he was not heavily recruited coming out of high school.
The University of Portland ended up giving Nicholas a chance at the Division-I level, and four years later, he will be living out his dreams by playing professional basketball.Feb 5, 2014; Spokane, WA, USA; Portland Pilots forward Ryan Nicholas (32) grabs a rebound against the Gonzaga Bulldogs during the second half at McCarthey Athletic Center. The Bulldogs beat Pilots 71-66. Mandatory Credit: James Snook-USA TODAY Sports
This past weekend, Nicholas signed a contract to play for Mitteldeutscher BC Weissenfels, a professional team in the BBL, German’s top league.
“I always like to rise to challenges,” Nicholas said. “Getting an offer from a top-level team was too good to pass up.”
According to Nicholas’ father, Tim Nicholas, the initial plan was for Ryan to start out in a lower division and make it up to one of Europe’s top divisions in two or three years. That plan was expedited.
“It’s always been a dream of mine and it’s kind of surreal in a way that I’m going straight to the first division,” Nicholas said.
“For Ryan it was a good fit,” Nicholas’ father said. “They know what they are getting with him and it’s a good first year opportunity to play in a premier division.”
Not only is it rare for a rookie to sign with a top division team, it is rare for a newcomer to sign this early. The BBL is still finishing up their playoff tournament, but an opening on Mitteldeutscher’s BC’s roster allowed Nicholas to sign on early.
This past season, Mitteldeutscher BC finished with a record of 16-18, just one game from making the playoffs. The club’s head coach, Poropat Silvano, was named head coach of the year after leading Mitteldeutscher BC to ninth place in the BBL standings, its best finish since 2000-2001.
A host of WCC players from years past are currently in the BBL, including former Gonzaga forward Elias Harris, former Santa Clara center John Bryant, former San Francisco forward Angelo Caloiaro and former Gonzaga wing Mathis Monninghoff. While there will be top-tier talent night after night, Nicholas is ready for the test.
“I didn’t necessarily expect it right off the bat, but I knew it was a possibility. Now that it’s here I’m ready to just embrace the challenge,” Nicholas said.
Mitteldeutscher BC provides a great fit for Nicholas and his abilities, making it a great fit, according to him and his father.
“What every team and every division loves [in Europe] is a stretch four,” Nicholas’ father said. “What they like about Ryan is he’s a stretch four, but he can also post you up, he can rebound, and he has a high IQ. He brings a lot of qualities to the mix.”
“It definitely fits my playing style,” Nicholas said.
Not only is Nicholas a good fit for the BBL’s style of play, the BBL’s is a good fit for his style of play as well.March 6, 2013; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Portland Pilots forward Ryan Nicholas (32) shoots the ball against the Loyola Marymount Lions during the first half of the WCC Basketball Championships at Orleans Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
“It’s a lot more technical of a game over there versus just athleticism,” Nicholas said. “He doesn’t’ need to be the leading scorer, he just needs to be who he is.”
Nicholas also said that the transition to Germany will be a little bit easier than it would be in other countries, considering it is fairly Americanized and a lot of English is spoken.
Of course, this opportunity would not have been possible with the University of Portland, where Nicholas said he developed as a basketball player greatly.
“They’ve always and embraced me and pushed me to be the best I can be, like they do with everyone,” Nicholas said.
While the whole thing is still very new, the Nicholas family is very excited what the future holds for Ryan.
“I’ve been playing basketball my whole life and now to be able to call it my job is the surreal part,” Nicholas said.
“We’re just pretty blessed,” Nicholas’ father said. “God put an opportunity in front of Ryan because he works hard and does things the right way and I firmly believe that those that put forth the effort will in one way get an opportunity and in turn a reward. This is Ryan’s reward.”
Nicholas was always known for his hard work and determination while playing in Portland, where he captivated fans with his nose-to-the-grindstone style of basketball. While Portland and the WCC is saddened about Nicholas’ departure, the BBL is gaining yet another quality player in Ryan Nicholas.