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Nurse's attention heals Tigers wounds


“‘We don’t need a nurse, we need a doctor to get us to the play-offs!’”

It might seem hard to believe now, but that was just one of the postings on a website in Poland that Michael Nurse can recall reading about himself during his days at Degusta-Malfarb Ostrow Wlkp last season.

For British fans, such comments are hard to understand – after all, the 6’1” American has started this season so brightly, averaging more than 20 points per game and helping Thames Valley Tigers to the top of the BBL Championship table.

However, the 25-year-old’s talents were not as appreciated in Poland and it’s fair to say that he is grateful to be able to put his Polish nightmare behind him.

“Paul James has allowed me to come in and do what I do best,” explained Nurse. “He has basically given me the ball and told me to run the team, so I’m very happy with that. It makes a tremendous difference from the situation I was in last year in Poland, because then I didn’t get the ball at all!

“Last year, I was the quickest guy on the team by far and in situations in the games when we needed a steal late in the game I was on the bench. It was little stuff like that which let me know that I was dealing with someone who really didn’t know what he was doing! It also showed by him playing me about ten minutes a game for the three games I was there and then cutting me!

“This business is sort of topsy-turvy – last year showed me that! I had just come out of the IBA in the States and I was going to be the MVP for the play-offs if we had won it, but we lost in five games to the Dakota Wizards. After that I went to Poland and it was just nothing for the whole year.

“It leaves a nasty taste in your mouth, but that’s the nature of the game. It strives you on – you always want to play well, but you especially want to play well after you have had a rough year and you’ve had doubters out there. 

“But it doesn’t hurt me, it seems like my whole career I have been attacked – when I was playing in junior college before I went to Iowa State people were all over me until I got there and then I guess they really fell in love with me. That may be the same thing that I have to go through for the rest of my life!”

As Michael Nurse has learnt, it often takes hard times to truly appreciate the good times. For Nurse, those good times certainly came at Iowa State.

“It was the best experience of my life!” he enthused. “The highlight for me was when we won our conference championship. There was a lot of hard work and a lot of dedication that went into that and then you get the final result of being able to cut down the nets in the Campo Arena in Kansas City, with the game on ESPN and everyone watching. I know that I watched when I was in high school, so to be playing in the game on ESPN was the biggest highlight for me. That’s why you play the game – for moments like that!

“I played with some great players, like Jamal Tinsley, who plays in the NBA right now [for the Indiana Pacers], and also Marcus Fizer, who plays for the Chicago Bulls. Kelvin Cato went to the school about two years before I did and he plays for Houston now. Loren Meyer and James Hamilton were at my college too and they have both played over here.”

If the company he’s kept is any judge of the quality of a player, then there can be no doubting the calibre of Michael Nurse, which only serves to underscore what the Polish league missed out on and what they have let slip through their fingers.

For Michael Nurse, ignoring last season’s disappointment, it’s clear that he is a player living the dream. He admits that being a pro basketball player was what he always wanted to do, as he puts it, “from the time I picked up a basketball at age 12”. 

The aim now is to achieve some success with the Tigers. So far so good in terms of his personal performances and that of the teams, as Tigers currently top the BBL Championship.

“It’s been good here so far, comfortable for me. The competition is very good, but, when I read online that Chester had signed Shaheen Holloway then I knew that this league was for real!”

So what are Tigers’ chance of collecting some silverware this season?

“We have some young guys who are just now trying to find their way through the league. We are a pretty small team compared to most, but if we continue to play hard and play pretty good defence and make sure we move the ball and run I think we will be alright. 

“To be honest, silverware is a realistic aim no matter what team you are on. You never know, because you can get hot at any point. We are just hoping that happens with us. I think the sky’s the limit for our team.”

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