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Making the leap: Nicholson, Watt to learn pro destinations tonight

blog by Ben Tsujimoto  • 

By our count, a college basketball player from Western New York’s Big 4—University at Buffalo, Canisius, St. Bonaventure and Niagara—hasn’t been selected in the NBA Draft since it was trimmed to only two rounds in 1989.

Tonight though, that streak should end. St. Bonaventure’s Andrew Nicholson will almost certainly be chosen in Thursday evening’s draft (7 p.m., ESPN), while the University at Buffalo’s Mitchell Watt could sneak into the mid-to-late second round.

A boon for Nicholson was his invite to the NBA Draft Combine, a stage where he was able to showcase his versatile game—Nicholson is a tremendous shooter, as NBA executives learned, but that doesn’t shock Bonnies fans whatsoever. According to Aaron Mansfield’s Buffalo News article, the Bonaventure alum—a physics major—visited nine different teams leading up to the draft.

NBADraft.net projects that Nicholson will go 19th overall to Orlando, who may be scrambling for capable big men if Dwight Howard bolts town. Watt is currently undrafted on the site’s most recent mock, but he peaked at #50 after a strong showing at the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament.

As is typical in the second round of NBA drafts, many teams settle for rather mysterious overseas players who don’t receive guaranteed contracts and can continue to develop abroad without occupying an NBA roster spot. Players like Greece’s Kostas Papanikolaou, Turkey’s Furkan Aldemir and Republic of Georgia’s Tornike Shengelia may never even come to America but could be chosen over established Americans like what. While this may not seem too fair, Watt will then have the luxury of weighing several offers as an undrafted free agent.

Canisius’ Mike Smrek (second round, 1985) and NU’s Joe Arlauckas (fourth round, 1987) were the last Big 4 players to be selected in the NBA Draft.

Tonight will be a historic moment for Western New York basketball, whose only representatives in the NBA are currently Jonny Flynn (Niagara Falls High School) and Lazar Hayward (former Buffalo Traditional High School). Best of luck to Nicholson and Watt as they continue their careers.

(Header photo courtesy of David Marino from UB vs. Akron game.)

TAGGED: andrew nicholson, mitchell watt, nba draft 2012, st. bonaventure basketball, university at buffalo, wny basketball

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