Friday, April 11, 2014

Nedwick's Career Blossoming In Italy

A black BMW is blurring down a long, tight road en route to the burgeoning metropolitan area of scenic Ascoli Piceno, Italy.

The blazing-fast BMW, along with several cars trailing it and gunning to pick it off, is eclipsing 110 miles per hour.

Nick Nedwick, saddled in the back of a navy blue bus directly behind all the passing cars, is nauseated.

Never has Nedwick been car sick before, albeit the quick-whipping wind and speedsters and the fatigue of three consecutive road games is beginning to wear on him.

What begins as a sharp stomach pain rapidly intensifies, and Nedwick is suddenly feeling dizzy.

"Guys, we've got to pull over," says Nedwick, who typically comes with the announcers'  tagline "The American Boy," to his teammates.

"I'm sorry...I...I've got to jump out real quick."

Nedwick pops out, pummeled by more dizziness than a young child after his first rollercoaster. The cars continue to storm by.

Nedwick effortlessly dispatches his breakfast on the side of the road. His teammates look on, shrugging and not uttering one word.

 Andrea Bocelli and other Italian music, a long ways from the Jadakiss and Styles P and Jay-Z bangers that Nedwick routinely warmed up to during Ferris Ave. summer league games, hums from the radio throughout the trip home.

Italy is rife with enough maniacal drivers to give even a Midtown cabbie fits.  Few other cultural differences, however, have fazed Nedwick.

As a lightly recruited 6-foot-1 off guard out of Irvington High School (N.Y.),  Nedwick evolved into the all-time leading scorer at Division-III Eastern Connecticut State University with 1,605 career points.

Overlooked and unsung, Nedwick has hurdled obstacles more arduous than aggravating, speed-crazed drivers.

He was always willing to play at any court, going at it for hours at Irvington Scenic Park, Reynolds Field, Ferris Ave., Rumbrook Park.

The competitive thirst was quenched as he proved his value among upper-echelon 914-area talent.

 The Irvington native's innate joy for the game has allowed him to prolong his basketball career in Italy's professional ranks. Nedwick currently averages 22 points per game for Cestica Ascoli Piceno, Italy's Basketmarche League.

Nedwick, whose offensive output has come on a mixed bag of mid-range jumpers, pull-ups, 3-pointers, and more aggressive surges to the rim (he's yanked the habit of settling), learned of the overseas opportunity through former Mercy College/Gorton High guard Nick Volchok.

Volchok, with whom Nedwick plays long, hyper-intense games of pickup ball at New York Sports Club and House of Sports, authored a professional career overseas.

"Nick put me in contact with the right person and it all took off from there," said Nedwick, who registered his presence with a 40-point game earlier this month.

"Playing professionally now, being 6-foot-1 is just too short for a shooting guard. I have to transition my game to the point. I still play the two-spot, because I can score but to make it to the next level I have to become an efficient point guard."

Nedwick describes Ascoli Piceno as a soccer-obsessed community. Townsfolk typically pack bars to the gills for heavily-anticipated matches.

The soccer fanfare has long been established in Italy, which took home the 2006 World Cup.

 Bordered by tall mountains, living in an apartment roughly 30 minutes from the Tronto River, Nedwick is adjusting to a slow-paced lifestyle away from the city area.

With little distractions, Nedwick spends much of his time training and practicing.

Piling up shots has been routine for Nedwick.

While he struggled mightily with the language barrier at first, Nedwick's game needed little translation. The same work ethic implanted in him during his early days at Irvington won over his teammates, with whom he spends nearly all his time with.

Games are typically played on Saturdays, as all Sundays are reserved for Holy Day festivities.

Nedwick is still assimilating to the culture, enrolled in twice-a-week Italian Speaking classes.

He is no longer fazed by the puzzling language and music and rural surroundings.

"It's really nice over here," Nedwick said.

"The only downside is I'm in a very small town in the country. It's beautiful, but boring."
You may remember Nick Nedwick during his heyday at Irvington High, when he formed a radiant 1-2 scoring with bullish guard Brittain Purcelle, a high-volume scorer who carved through defenses throughout Class B. 

Nedwick's high-energy, frenetic style helped spur the resurrection of a once ailing Bulldogs program. A few years prior to Nedwick's arrival, the Bulldogs went 3-17. 

Years earlier, they were led by Eddie Nedwick, an diversified scorer who carried tremendous weight on a disengaged team that lacked talent and depth severely. 

The tide and culture turned years later, when Nedwick earned a starting spot as a high-adrenaline sophomore. 

Behind Nedwick, Purcelle, and countless others who played with unbridled passion and 32 minutes of sustained relentlessness, the boys basketball program was finally on the same plane as the storied, tradition-rich girls program under Hall of Fame coach Gina Maher.

Nedwick, a 2008 Irvington graduate, was known for locking up opposing guards in a Ziplock bag, vowing to provide nary a slither of breathing room. Never one to talk trash, the serious stare-downs he treated scorers with never fluttered. 

Defense was Nedwick's calling card, since his early days as a smurf-sized runt in Billy Ottovich's Irvington Rec league.

The appeal of that aspect of the game has endured the test of time, mirroring Nedwick's true basketball identity.

"Nick's a physical 6'1 guard but plays as if he's 6'5," said Erik Gormley, the former Dobbs Ferry point guard, who has played against Nedwick since their CYO days.

"His ability to move without the ball and read the play all at once is something that's extremely hard to guard. When he has the ball, he's good with both hands. He's improved his ball handling dramatically. Some players give up on plays or take plays off to catch their breath, Nick doesn't."

Nedwick's game is predicated on coming off screens, freeing himself off the ball, and sidestepping traffic. This allows him to get the ball in position to pull-and-pop or knife to the bucket.

"Probably the biggest adversity I've had to overcome as a player was proving I could be effective at the two-guard despite being 6-1," Nedwick said.

 "I really thought I was overlooked a lot in high school. I just had to prove to everyone I can play the game."

 The blanketing defense, those deep corner 3-pointers, quick slashes amid contact, and the possession disruption which sparked run-outs and easy layins, it's all still in Nedwick's arsenal.

He's still as active and super-hyped as ever. The crazed game day energy still soars through mountaintops, as he's lasered in on every play and diving for loose balls as if it's a gold-encrusted Spalding worth A-Rod money.

"He's always had that drive," explained Ryan Riefenhauser, the former Dobbs Ferry guard who went up against Nedwick before joining forces with him in the aforementioned Ferris Ave. league.

"What makes him difficult to guard is how versatile he's become. First it was with the three, then he started driving a lot more. Now, he's got a pull-up jumper. He still can't hold me though."

Having shifted his gaze to facilitating the attack as a lead guard, Nedwick hopes to earn his paycheck in one the country's higher leagues.

"My goal is to make it to one of the top leagues, I hate how Division-III players are looked down upon and people think that were not good enough," Nedwick explained.

"I just want to prove that D-III players can play professionally and make it out here. That's what drives me so much. I was told by an agent that European coaches will look at D-I or D-II guys with little to no stats before they look at a D-III player with top notch stats."

Nedwick is not certain about his basketball longevity. 

He's far away from home, pursuing lifelong dreams. He always told himself he would "ride it until the wheels fall off," but he knows nothing in life comes with a guarantee.

"I know I'm not going to be able to play basketball for the rest of my life," Nedwick said.

"I want to play as long as I can but obviously there are concerns. In the next year or two, if I'm not making good money, I can't stay here. I have to be able to support myself financially. It's definitely tough being away from family and friends, but I get so much support and I'm always on Skype, Facebook and WhatsApp talking to everyone."