As the NBA Draft moved on last Thursday night, Ahmad Nivins sat in his Jersey City home watching every single selection for more than four hours, and never heard his name called.
One by one, all of the other prospective draftees were taken in the draft, guys that the former St. Anthony High School and St. Joseph’s University standout had played against or worked out with.
But as the clock ticked towards midnight, Nivins was still a player without a team.
“I didn’t get frustrated,” Nivins said. “I was starting to get anxious. I wasn’t going to give up until the final name was called. There was still a chance that I could get drafted, but it was getting kind of crazy at my house.”
By 11:20 p.m., the people who were with Nivins dwindled down to a select few.
“There were only about five or six people there,” Nivins said.
Around 11:45 p.m., with the draft winding down to the last precious few picks, there was a commercial break in ESPN’s coverage.
Nivins noticed that the Dallas Mavericks had the No. 56 pick overall in the second round, but didn’t give any thought about the team taking him, because the Mavericks were one of the teams that hadn’t had the 6-foot-9 Nivins, the Atlantic-10 Player of the Year in 2009, in for a pre-draft workout.
“But I saw No. 56 and then I saw my name go across the bottom of the screen,” Nivins said. “I couldn’t believe it. I dropped my cell phone and it had a big crack in it. I then told my family, ‘I just got picked.’ ”
Just for Nivins’ luck, the biggest moment of his basketball career came when ESPN was on a commercial break.
“I didn’t hear my name, but I got to see it,” Nivins said. “Soon after, everything just got a little crazy. The phone calls were coming in, but I couldn’t hear them.”
Just four selections before the completion of the NBA Draft, Nivins was indeed selected. The young man, who averaged 19.2 points and nearly 12 rebounds per game for the Hawks of St. Joe’s last season, was now property of the Dallas Mavericks.
“It was a little nerve-wracking, especially seeing all the guys getting picked before me,” Nivins said. “But it was a little bit of an uplifting experience. It was definitely a fun experience and a night I will never forget.”
With his selection, Nivins became the sixth former St. Anthony player taken in the NBA Draft, joining David Rivers, Bobby Hurley, Terry Dehere, Rodrick Rhodes and Roshown McLeod. He was the first former Friar to be picked since McLeod was taken in the first round by the Atlanta Hawks in 1998. Incredibly, that was 11 years ago already.
Nivins said that he was totally shocked that the Mavericks took him, considering that he worked out for 12 teams before the draft and none of them were the Mavs.
“It totally caught me by surprise,” Nivins said. “I didn’t think they were interested. But after they picked me, they said that they weren’t expecting me to be around when they picked at No. 56. They were happy to have me.”
So happy that the Mavericks owner Marc Cuban flew Nivins to Dallas the next day and he got to meet head coach Rick Carlisle and general manager Donn Nelson.
“I had never been to Dallas before, so it sort of felt weird going to a new city, and it could be my new home,” Nivins said. “But everyone was very welcoming to me. They were all welcoming and accommodating. I met Mr. Cuban at the press conference and he seemed to be happy to have me. They all seem pretty excited to have me aboard.”
Although second round draft picks do not receive guaranteed contracts, Nivins has already been placed on the Mavericks’ roster and will head to play for the team in the Las Vegas Summer League next week.
“We start practicing July 6 through July 9 and then the games are July 10 through July 19,” Nivins explained. “I have to prove myself now. I still have a ways to go before I play in the NBA. But I’ve never backed down to a challenge and I look forward to show them what I can do.”
Nivins was asked if he was proud to get selected in the NBA Draft and to join such an elite group of former St. Anthony players.
“It’s definitely a blessing, because there aren’t a lot of guys who get a chance to get drafted,” Nivins said. “I’m trying to embrace that fact. But I can’t take anything for granted. As exciting as it is, it’s time to get to work. But every kid who laces up his sneakers and touches a basketball dreams of a day like this. I’m in great position to make the most of this. I’ve earned the chance and now, I have to make sure I earned a place in pro basketball.”
It’s safe to say Ahmad Nivins has climbed the first hurdle. He definitely has the right attitude and the right approach…
Nivins wasn’t the only local product to get selected in a professional draft last week. Former St. Peter’s Prep hockey standout Kyle Palmieri, who played two years at the Prep under coach Joe Maione before going off to play junior hockey, was selected by the Anaheim Ducks in the first round of the National Hockey League Draft last week, the No. 26 pick overall. Palmieri becomes the first former Hudson County product to ever get selected in an NHL draft. Palmieri has already given a verbal commitment to attend Notre Dame on a hockey scholarship, but the chances look good that the former Marauder standout will get a chance to play in the NHL very shortly…
Congrats to St. Anthony basketball coach Bob Hurley, who was inducted into the National High School Athletic Federation Hall of Fame last week in Chicago. It was just another major accolade for the legendary coach. Now, if they can only get the National Basketball Hall of Fame thing down pat and open the doors in Springfield for the nation’s best high school coach… -- Jim Hague Jim Hague can be reached at OGSMAR@aol.com.