Denton: Magic Confident Nicholson & O'Quinn Can Contribute

By John Denton
June 28, 2012

ORLANDO – Andrew Nicholson didn’t start playing basketball until his junior year of high school, went to college primarily to get a Physics degree and surprised even himself by developing into a NBA prospect.

The Orlando Magic helped Nicholson realize his NBA dreams on Thursday night when they made the multi-talented power forward the 19th pick of the NBA Draft.

Nicholson, a native of Mississauga, Ontario, learned of being drafted by the Magic from a restaurant in downtown Toronto as he was surrounded by friends and family.

``The Magic are such a good organization and team and I’m happy to be a part of it,’’ Nicholson said. ``I’m beyond elated and it’s a dream come true.’’

The draft was the first one for new Magic GM Rob Hennigan, who was hired last week to run the team’s basketball operations department. Hennigan, 30 years old and the youngest GM in the NBA, worked previously for the San Antonio Spurs and the Oklahoma City Thunder, specializing in player personnel and the NBA Draft. He said late Thursday night that he wore his ``wedding tie’’ for good luck and admitted to be nervous heading into the draft progress.

``We are excited to have Andrew join our Orlando Magic family,’’ Hennigan said. ``We feel he embodies the types of values that will put him in a position to achieve success here. He’s a humble, high character player who is committed to working hard and playing within a team concept. We are intrigued by his cerebral, instinctual approach to the game.’’

Hennigan stressed in the days before the draft that character and basketball smarts would be important in the player that he selected for the Magic. In Nicholson, the Magic are getting a 22-year-old with a degree in Physics and a strong recommendation from St. Bonaventure coach Mark Schmidt.

``He’s not a good kid, he’s a great kid,’’ Schmidt said. ``He’s the most low maintenance kid I’ve ever coached and Orlando is getting a really good one.’’

With the No. 49th pick in the second round, the Magic selected Norfolk State center Kyle O’Quinn, a 6-foot-10, 240-pounder. O’Quinn, a Jamaica, New York, averaged 15.9 points, 10. 3 rebounds and 2.6 blocks this past season. He had 26 points, 14 rebounds and two blocks in Norfolk State’s upset of Missouri in the NCAA Tournament.

``I went from being a nobody to a somebody in a matter of seconds,’’ O’Quinn said of his performance against Missouri.

Hennigan said there were talks with several teams about several players, including franchise center Dwight Howard. But the Magic resisted several chances to trade the six-time all-star center. Hennigan hopes to meet with Howard next week to discuss his vision for the Magic in the future.

``I’m pretty excited about having the chance to speak to Dwight,’’ he said. ``We’re going to take it one conversation at a time and see where it goes.’’

Nicholson, a 6-foot-9, 234-pounder, can play both forward slots. He averaged 18.4 points and 8.5 rebounds this past season for the Bonnies. Nicholson said he is naturally a power forward, but he can also guard some small forwards and shoot from the perimeter.

``(The Magic) like my versatility, my length and they like my size,’’ Nicholson said. ``I’m a good character guy. I’m just ready to come in and contribute to the team.’’

University of Kentucky stars Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist were the first two picks and were selected by New Orleans and Charlotte. University of Florida small forward Bradley Beal went to the Washington Wizards at No. 3. The Hornets also selected Orlando native Austin Rivers, son of former Magic coach Doc Rivers, with the No. 10 pick.

Nicholson spent much of his childhood playing baseball and didn’t start playing basketball until his junior year of high school. He picked up the sport quickly and developed into a college prospect by the end of high school. He said he chose St. Bonaventure because it was close to home and he could have a major impact on the program.

``I picked up basketball late, but I played on the college level all four years so I’m going to have that maturity on the court,’’ he said. ``I have a better feel. I’m willing to contribute and help the team. My strengths are my versatility and my shooting. I’m a big guy who can stretch the floor out and I can also play inside, too.’’

Nicholson feels his best basketball is still to come because of his start in basketball. He vows he will work to improve his game for the Magic.

``I have to get stronger and get my body bigger. I don’t think that I’ve physically peaked yet because I picked up the sport late,’’ Nicholson said. ``I hadn’t even started to lift (weights) before I went to Bonaventure. So my strength will come and it will help me expand my game and become a better player.’’

John Denton writes for OrlandoMagic.com. John has covered the Magic since 1997. E-mail John at jd41898@aol.com and follow him on Twitter at @JohnDenton555.

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