Kipper Nichols, from University of Illinois to Sheffield Sharks
Kipper Nichols makes his debut as a professional basketball player tonight when the Sheffield Sharks tip-off the new BBL season at home to London Lions.
Had you told the 22-year-old from Cleveland, Ohio, seven months ago that this is where he would be, he would probably have laughed in your face.
For the 6ft 6in forward was preparing to play in the NCAA’s famous March Madness tournament with the University of Illinois, when coronavirus forced the tournament’s cancellation and sent sport into lockdown.
“With the whole pandemic, unprecedented times, the whole process was not as traditional as it usually is,” he said.
“With not having the tournament for exposure, and the season ending so abruptly, I had to quickly find an agent and find a home.”
Fortunately, the agent put Nichols in touch with Atiba Lyons, coach of the Sheffield Sharks.
“Coach Atiba hit me up, we talked it out, we communicated back and forth and they sold it to me,” said Nichols. “He laid out why it made sense.”
And so, Nichols finds himself on a Sharks team set to embark on a BBL campaign behind closed doors.
That, and life in Sheffield, has been something to adapt to quickly.
“It’s an adjustment, it’s a learning curve,” he admits.
“I speak for any rookie playing at the next level, this is definitely something you’ve got to get used to, especially being on the other side of the pond. It’s not just basketball, it’s life that’s been an adjustment.
“I’ve been trying to keep my mind right, I’ve been doing a lot of reading.
“That’s pretty much it, other than looking outside my window. There’s not much to do right now in Sheffield right now,” he laughs.
“The on-court stuff has been a learning curve, but these guys have made it easier, and I’m itching to get going.
“Since I’ve been here the guys have been nothing but great, and building that bond is number one on my list, getting as close as we can. If you’re close off the court, it usually translates to when you’re on the court.”
Sharks begin their season with a BBL Cup Group 3 game against the Lions at Ponds Forge, tip-off at the slightly earlier time of 6pm and available to stream free of charge on YouTube.