Portland senior forward Ryan Nicholas is entering the stretch run of his collegiate career. Just don’t expect him to alter his stride.
The Gonzaga Prep product has been remarkably consistent. After spending his freshman year backing up Kramer Knutson and Luke Sikma, Nicholas averaged 11.5 points and 7.6 rebounds as a sophomore. Last year he checked in at 13 points and 8.7 boards. This season he’s at 12.4 points and 9.0 rebounds.
“I try to be a guy that my coach can count on,” said Nicholas, who has eight double-doubles this season and leads the WCC in rebounding. “I’m not trying to have one game with 20 and the next one with five. People look at guys’ averages, that’s the bottom line. But I don’t think people really look at, ‘Is he doing it every night?’ ”
Nicholas was the team’s leading scorer the last two years, but ranks third on an improved Pilots squad pursuing a top-five finish in the WCC.
“I’ve always thought I wasn’t brought here to be our leading scorer,” said Nicholas, who tonight makes his final trip to his hometown as a Pilot. “We’re more of a balanced attack this year and it’s taken more off my shoulders.”
Portland broke a 20-game losing streak to Gonzaga with an 82-73 win last month.
“I’ve been trying to do that for four years,” said Nicholas, who played in pick-up games as a high schooler at the Warehouse with John Stockton and numerous former Zags. “To do it as a senior, at home, it was a phenomenal feeling.”
Nicholas’ work ethic has helped the 6-foot-7, 245-pound forward expand his game, coach Eric Reveno said. “You go around the league and you see seniors who have improved and some who haven’t. He’s kind of greedy and ambitious and he’s willing to put in the hard work to get there.”