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Former Valparaiso player E. Victor Nickerson overcoming obstacles in Spain
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Former Valparaiso player E. Victor Nickerson overcoming obstacles in Spain

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E. Victor Nickerson has made a career out of navigating potholes through his basketball journey.

Those experiences have led to a resolve that have the former Valparaiso player well equipped to handle the most recent obstacles surrounding COVID-19.

Nickerson, who went through double hip and double wrist surgeries while at Valparaiso, has battled back through those health ailments to put together a professional basketball career that has included stops in the NBA G-League as well as overseas.

Nickerson is currently in Spain, where his season was cut short due to COVID-19. When the pandemic hit, his club team stopped paying for housing and food, leaving Nickerson to scramble for the most basic amenities while attempting to find another landing spot. The 2016 Valparaiso graduate recently started a GoFundMe page that has brought in more than $1,500 in less than two weeks.

“Everything happened so fast,” said Nickerson, who averaged 6.2 and 4.5 points per game, respectively, in his two seasons with the Crusaders. “I was in the gym watching our younger team play before practice. Two hours later our game was cancelled. We stayed at the residence that we had for another week or so before they shut the rest of the season down. That’s when I had to move.”

Nickerson’s professional journey has taken him from the Fort Wayne Mad Ants in the G-League to stops in China, Hong Kong and the Republic of Georgia. He joined Xerez Baloncesto in the fifth-tier professional league in Spain earlier this year where he averaged 27.5 points, 19 rebounds and four assists while earning seven Player of the Week awards in the two months he played. When the season stopped abruptly, so did his paychecks.

“The team I was with was obligated to pay for housing and food expenses, but when that stopped, I had to scramble,” Nickerson said. “I’ve moved three times already and my Airbnb is expiring soon and I know I’m going to have to move at least one, if not two more times.”

One of Nickerson’s first places he stayed post-shutdown was infested with cockroaches. He’s had numerous flights back to the United States canceled over the last two months and now he’s made the decision to stay in Spain as he continues to work toward securing a pro contract once the season restarts.

“I’ve had a lot of people doubt me over the years and tell me to give up on this dream,” Nickerson said. “I’m doing this without an agent now. I’m representing myself. I’m back to being fully healthy and I’ve showed that on the court. I knew I always had it and I know I can do this at a higher stage. I’ve had to restart my whole resume after my last two years (at Valparaiso) where I constantly battled injuries. I’ve got a lot more left in the tank.”

Nickerson went three months without touching a basketball after the season was shut down and he’s used that time to build his own company away from the game. His brand is called OcYM, or “Overcome Your Mental” and he’s using it as a springboard to infuse more positivity in his basketball journey.

“I’m trying to stay focused on the positive in life,” Nickerson said. “Some people just focus on the negativity all the time. I’ve had four surgeries. I went from being on draft boards to being in the G-League, to being cut in the G-League, to playing all over. I’m still here and I’m still going after this dream.”

There remains a possibility that Nickerson could re-sign with Xerez as the team is pushing to making a jump to a higher level of competition in Spain. The country has been a hotbed for former Valparaiso players, as Jubril Adekoya, Kevin Van Wijk, Vashil Fernandez and David Skara have all played in Spain since their collegiate careers ended.

“I’m thinking basketball will start back here around September or October,” Nickerson said. “I’m excited to be able to play again and to finally be healthy. I’m working on finding a better living situation for the next two to three months before everything starts back up again. I miss home, but I’m focused on training and getting back on the court.”

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Paul Oren has been a correspondent reporter for The Times since 2005. A member of the United States Basketball Writers Association, Paul has spent more than 15 years covering Valparaiso basketball.

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