It’s safe to call Ahmad Nivins a traveling man.
In fact, the Jersey City native has been bopping all across the country so much that he’s spending more time in airports than any place else. Such is the life when you’re a prospective draft pick in the upcoming NBA draft.
Nivins, who was the Atlantic-10 Player of the Year last season for St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, has been attending tryouts with practically every NBA team imaginable before the draft Thursday night in New York.
When Nivins was reached via cell phone, he was sitting in the airport in Minneapolis after having a workout session with the Timberwolves. He was boarding a plane for Sacramento for a session with the Kings. A visit with the Knicks was also in the works.
“So far, I’ve been to Boston, Indiana, Minnesota, Charlotte, Milwaukee, Detroit, Portland, San Antonio, the L.A. Lakers and Cleveland,” Nivins said. “It has been crazy. But at this point, I’m trying to earn a living in basketball.”
Still, if Nivins is making all these trips to all these different teams, he must be in demand. The latest ESPN rankings have the former St. Anthony standout as the No. 51-ranked prospect going into the draft. He’s 6-foot-9 and has developed a nice outside shooting touch, proving that he can play both with his back to the basket and facing the basket.
If there weren’t all these trips, then it would mean that no one was interested.
“I think it is a good sign,” Nivins said. “I’ve received good feedback from the personnel directors, vice-presidents of personnel, and general managers. Everyone has told me that they liked what I did in the workouts. People liked what I was able to do in college, but I have to do the same in these workouts. I have to show what I can do. That’s the approach I have to take. But it’s a good feeling to have that kind of interest in me. It means a lot.”
Last Saturday, Nivins worked out close to home, making an official visit to the New Jersey Nets’ training facility in East Rutherford.
“It was different than the rest,” Nivins said. “Throughout this whole process, I’ve been traveling some place. I check into the hotel and have a routine. This was a little different, because I came from home. Instead of an alarm clock to wake me, I had my parents. It was a little change of gears.”
Nivins said that he felt good about his workout with the Nets. He thought he gave a decent account of himself.
“The accolades I received in college are great, but they have nothing to do with my pro career,” Nivins said. “I just have to keep being the most energetic player, the most vocal, and keep showing what I can do. I think the improvement in my shooting range helps and adds to my versatility. I think teams know what I can do with my back to the basket, but now I’m showing that I can step out and make that shot. But I still have to be the most energetic guy.”
Nivins said that he hasn’t been able to talk to any of the former St. Anthony players, like former first round selections Rodrick Rhodes and Roshown McLeod, about their experiences in the NBA Draft, but he has been in constant contact with St. Anthony legendary coach Bob Hurley.
“I have been talking to Coach Hurley once a week at least since this all started in May,” Nivins said. “He really helped me and told me what to expect. I’ve also been in touch with Melissa Hurley [the coach’s daughter], while Coach Hurley has been away in Europe and she’s been asking me for reports.”
It also helps that Nivins’ college coach, Phil Martelli, has had players like the Magic’s Jameer Nelson and the Cavaliers’ Delonte West endure the draft procedure in recent years.
“Coach Martelli has been very helpful and I can approach him about anything,” Nivins said. “He lets me know how proud he is of me and keeps me working hard. It helps having someone like Coach Martelli in your corner. He knows what I’m going through.”
So the traveling man just collects another boarding pass, puts another refrigerator magnet in his carry-on bag and heads to another destination. It will soon be over, because the NBA Draft is rapidly approaching.
Needless to say, that skinny gangly kid who began his career as a string bean at County Prep seven years ago before transferring to St. Anthony is a distant memory.
“I definitely didn’t see this coming,” Nivins said. “But I’m glad it did.”
Next Thursday, Nivins’ traveling will be over. He’ll be in his Jersey City home, watching the NBA Draft with the millions of others around the world.
“Hopefully, I’ll be hearing some good news,” Nivins said…
Chalk up another in the litany of local high school basketball players gone afoul of the law. Another Hudson County star hoop performer has been arrested, raising the total to four in the last calendar year.
Hoboken’s Eddie Canary, who was the Red Wings’ leading scorer last season, a Hudson Reporter Athlete of the Week and a Second Team All-Area honoree, was arrested last weekend for allegedly knocking a man to the ground and being part of a group that may have stolen his wallet, then attacking another man just a few minutes later.
Canary was arrested and charged with robbery and two counts of inflicting bodily injury, according to police reports.
The first alleged incident took place on Third and Madison in Hoboken. The victim received 10 stitches and had a broken collarbone and was treated at Hoboken University Medical Center.
About a half hour later, police saw Canary allegedly beating another man in Church Square Park. He was apprehended after a brief chase. Canary was charged with both assaults and with robbery.
We all know that everyone in the United States is innocent until proven guilty, but if these charges are true, then we have to hope that it’s the last time we see Eddie Canary’s name associated with Hoboken High School.
And it’s just downright sickening to think that there were four separate incidents in one calendar year involving basketball players getting arrested for serious crimes. Enough is enough…
It’s the end of an era in Hudson County high school baseball. St. Peter’s Prep long-time head coach Joe Urbanovich announced that he was retiring after 34 years as the mentor of the Marauders. Urbanovich, a member of the Hudson County Sports Hall of Fame, told his team of his decision after they defeated Memorial in the HCIAA Coviello title game a few weeks ago, but made his decision official after meeting with Prep AD Rich Hansen Monday.
“I’ve reached the end of the line,” Urbanovich said. “I waited until the end of the season to tell the players, because I didn’t want it to be a ‘Win one for the Gipper’ type thing. It’s time for me to end it and it’s a good way to end it, with a championship. I’m not going to change my decision now. I’m very proud of what I’ve been able to do at Prep.”
Hansen released a statement: “Today Joe Urbanovich retired after 34 years as Prep’s head baseball coach. As you know, Joe’s record of 580-272, his 6 HCIAA titles and countless NJSIAA playoff appearances are only the tip of his contribution to 1,000’s of lives of Prep players over the years. I will begin the process of accepting and reviewing applications for the position immediately.”
Current assistant coach Kevin Wendolowski has to be one of those under consideration for the job, but if “Wendo” doesn’t get it, you can be rest assured that there would be countless others interested, because it’s a great baseball program. We’ll have more on Urbanovich’s career in the coming weeks… -- Jim Hague Jim Hague can be reached at OGSMAR@aol.com.