By Chris Cullum – @
It’s no stretch to say that VCU recruits student-athletes from all over the world. Just look at a roster for any given sport and, more often than not, you’ll see an athlete that came from abroad to be a VCU Ram.
To watch international athletes competing alongside local recruits on the field for the Rams is an undeniably enjoyable part of college athletics.
Ideally, if these athletes decide to return home once their collegiate days are done, they have forged a strong enough bond with VCU to take what they’ve experienced here and pass it on to those around them, wherever on the globe that may be.
Enter former Ram basketball player Nick George.
George, a native of Manchester, England, enjoyed great success at VCU. He ranks in the top-10 in career points and rebounds and was a two-time All-CAA First Team honoree. In 2003, he was voted CAA Rookie of the Year, and in 2004, he helped lift VCU to a CAA Championship and the school’s first NCAA Tournament appearance in eight years.
Following his VCU career, George worked out for several NBA teams and participated in the NBA’s Summer League with the Golden State Warriors. Halfway through camp, however, he got a call for an opportunity that he couldn’t pass up: a 3-year contract offer from an Italian team, Universo Treviso Basket.
Despite his successful career as a Ram, George admitted that his game didn’t translate right away to the style of play used overseas.
“It took me awhile to adjust to the European game,” said George. “My first year was a big adjustment period. What you’re taught in the States is completely different from the European game.
“I guess it’s just the style of play. It’s a very technical game, there’s so much attention to detail. For example, I used to take a very huge first step, but once I got overseas they taught me to dribble the ball first and then attack the basket. Just small details in the style of play.”
Once he got used to the style of play, George carved out a solid career overseas, spending most of his time in Italy, with stops in Spain, Switzerland, and his own United Kingdom. His favorite experience was playing for Junior Casale, an Italian club based in the town of Casale Monferrato in the northwestern part of Italy. George cited that this was about the time that he began adjusting to the European game which, combined with his appreciated for the local culture, made for a memorable experience.
“Once you mix good basketball with good culture you’re going to have a great time,” he said.
George has also proudly represented his country as a member of its national team.
“It was really overwhelming,” George said. “When you’re young it doesn’t really register with you, but when you get older you realize that you’re representing a nation. I always say that representing your country is the highest honor. I don’t care what team you play for. If you’ve been selected as one of the best players in your whole country you should really understand how important that is.”
However, he admits his playing days may be behind him. On Dec. 9, George announced on Twitter that he had parted ways with the Plymouth University Raiders of the British Basketball League. The 32-year-old George averaged 9.6 points in 14 games for the Raiders this year.
“Recently, I’ve decided to stop playing for a while,” he said.
George says that he wants to spend more time on his athlete development program, Nick George Pro Performance, which launched last year. As described on the Pro Performance website: “Through our enthusiastic coaching style, efficient player to coach ratio, and fun yet challenging curriculum, our development program takes pride in helping athletes improve.”
George has always been passionate about working out and the process of developing his skills. He even noted that there were times when he preferred to do that as opposed to actually playing the game. He credits his time at VCU with really helping to foster his love for development.
“I had some fantastic coaches during my time at VCU, and I think I really developed a passion for developing myself,” he said. “Now I’m at a point where I want to pass that on. I really do believe that a lot of young players don’t focus on the right things. I always say to focus on the basics.”
Although the program is still young, George says business has been good.
“It really took off,” he said. “I wasn’t expecting it to take off as much as it did, I wasn’t prepared for it, but it keeps growing every day. People keep gravitating toward what we’re trying to do. There’s no gimmicks. It’s all based on hard work. We’re just trying to show players, young or old, the correct way to go about your development.”
George admits he takes great pride in the growth of the program, which serves players of all skill levels, including professional. He also says he’d like to bring Pro Performance across the pond, back to the city that helped shape him in the first place.
“Hopefully by next summer I’d definitely like to venture into Richmond and see what opportunities there are to give back,” George said. “VCU changed my life. Everything I learned at VCU has been incorporated into this program. You can tell by the colors of the logo that VCU was definitely on my mind when I started the program.”