Mark Schmidt was sure from Day 1.
Before Andrew Nicholson had even played a game for St. Bonaventure, the Bonnies’ coach admitted he saw NBA potential in his prize recruit from Mississaugua, Ont.
For Schmidt, notably cautious about praising his players, that concession was huge.
And he was proven right on Thursday night when the Orlando Magic took the 6-foot-9, 235-pound forward with the 19th pick in the first round of the National Basketball Association Draft.
Nicholson is a rarity in today’s pro hoops landscape ... a player who went to college all four years before being drafted.
And it could be argued that he needed it.
Indeed, there was no buzz about the chemistry-switched-to-physics major coming out after his junior year, even though he averaged 21 points and seven boards in leading the Bonnies to a 16-15 record — their first winning season in eight years — and a berth in the College Basketball Invitational.
There were teases, though, such as that 44-point, 12-rebound effort in a four-overtime victory against Ohio University at the Reilly Center. Or the 35 he dropped on Dayton and the 30-point efforts against Rhode Island and La Salle.
But it was his final season that earned Nicholson his prime selection spot last night, though it didn’t happen right away.
Indeed, many observers felt that early in the season, enthusiastic 6-foot-11 freshman center Youssou Ndoye was faster up-and-down the court than Bona’s All-America candidate, who has a deceptive, loping stride.
Of more concern, though, was the fact, five times over the first 20 games Nicholson failed to score double figures ... and had the same number of instances where he fouled out, including three straight games when he averaged a mere 21 minutes.
It was after that latter streak, the last game of which Nicholson played only 10 minutes, that Atlantic 10 Commissioner Bernadette McGlade reportedly informed her game officials that showering the A-10 Player of the Year with whistles wasn’t exactly the best way to help promote him or the conference.
And maybe it was mere coincidence, but that seemed to trigger what was inarguably the best 12-game stretch of Nicholson’s career. Or, as injured guard Michael Davenport assessed, “Andrew took the team on his shoulders and carried it.”
Over that span, as the Bonnies went 8-4, won the Atlantic 10 Tournament and earned a berth in the NCAAs, Nicholson averaged 24 points and 11 rebounds, logging six of the nine double-doubles he had over his final season.
Suddenly he looked very much like a first-round draft choice ... especially thanks to one compelling stat.
In that last dozen games — including an 0-for-1 against Florida State in The Dance — Nicholson was a gaudy 15-of-26 on three-pointers. That’s an other-worldly 58 percent on treys.
When he logged those numbers, even the Nicholson skeptics were quick to concede, “If he can do that ... there’s a place for him in the NBA.”
And last night the Orlando Magic proved it.
(Chuck Pollock, the Times Herald sports editor, can be reached at