Tre focused on winning title for Slammers before looking ahead
TRE Nichols is now in his third SBL season with the South West Slammers and gaining his permanent residency could open the door for a deserved NBL chance, but his focus is on doing all he can to bring a championship to Bunbury.
Nichols has had two outstanding seasons now with the Slammers following his standout college career at Boise State, including leading them to a grand final appearance back in 2015.
The 27-year-old has a proven himself a standout performer in the SBL. With an at times unstoppable all-round game, it has been a surprise to many that he is yet to get a look in at the NBL.
Nichols does have all the tools to make it at the next level and looking at the Brisbane Bullets, Sydney Kings and Perth Wildcats at different times during the recently completed season, Nichols would have been an ideal fit.
He too was hoping for the call, but that's out of his control.
While he acknowledges that getting his Australian citizenship might make him irresistible to be signed by an NBL club, that too is something to worry about later and that is out of his hands.
What is in his control is putting together another outstanding individual season for the Slammers and doing all he can to help them firstly back into the playoffs, and taking them as far as he can.
Nichols continues to love everything about the experience of playing with the Slammers and living in Bunbury, and overall of life in the SBL and Australia.
"As everyone knows, it's Australia and there is nothing not to like. As a rookie coming here first you are kind of spoilt with the lifestyle. It's kind of addictive," Nichols said.
"Then from a basketball perspective, the club has been wonderful for me and they have always worked with me and my family. They have been welcoming since day one. Coming in for that first year and losing the grand final, it kind of sparked things a little bit.
"Now they say that third time is a charm so we are looking to finish the deal this year. I want to have another season especially coming off the back end of last year when it was kind of rough for us.
"Nixy has been doing a great job, he has come in and changed the entire culture of the program. It has been amazing so we are looking forward to having a solid season."
Nichols' first season with South West could have hardly turned out better on a personal front and then with the team going to the grand final after winning a combined four games between 2010-12.
Things didn’t go to plan last year as the Slammers adjusted to life without Ty Harrelson, had lost Brian Voelkel from the grand final year and injuries continued to pile up.
Nichols has no doubt they will learn from it greatly, though, coming into 2017 with Voelkel back, Clive Weeden fully healthy, Michael Lay on board and Charles Nix taking over as coach.
"I wouldn’t call it a wasted season, you learn from all your mistakes as a team and individual," he said.
"It was a down year for us whether it was the chemistry or what have you, but we learned a lot about ourselves as a group and as individuals. If anything that should help us this year."
Nichols still did well individually last season and had some remarkable performances including 51 points late against the Mandurah Magic.
But what stood out last year that unlike in 2015 with Harrelson and now in 2017 with Lay, he had to be the dominant presence on the floor with carrying the ball, running the plays for the team, making his own plays and creating his own shots.
He is more than capable of doing that, but to have the pressure off with a ball-handler and playmaker the quality of Lay is something he is already happy about.
"I'm enjoying not having to make all the plays, I really am. It has been lovely to be honest. Guys are doing what they need to do to step up and guys are playing their role, and knowing their roles and making a major contribution to what we are trying to get done here," Nichols said.
"I'm looking forward to the season with him (Lay) so much. He has been great already and that one-two combo is something special. It's just about that chemistry. When you've got a guy who knows the game as well as him, it makes it easier for everyone around him.
"It's just like my first year with Ty who is also one of those guys who really knew the game. You need those type of guys on your team who can help in major ways."
If Nichols had any doubts about coming back to the Slammers for a third season in 2017, they were quickly put to bed firstly with the appointment of Nix and coach and then with the news that Voelkel would be returning as well.
"To be honest, with Brian coming back that kind of reassured me to come back because he was a major, vital teammate for the entire program in my first year," he said.
"He just brings so much to the game, with so much tenacity and he does it all. You need that type of Draymond Green sort of player who can do the dirty work and interrupt what the opposition is trying to do. He is amazing to bring back into the club."
Nichols might not have known what to expect when he arrived back in 2015, but now that he is entering his third season with the Slammers and living in Bunbury, there's nothing he would change.
He certainly understands why someone like Weeden has stuck around to earn to earn their citizenship to now be able to play as a local. Lay is a new teammate of his who is now also considered a local.
It's something that Nichols is considering coming into a third year in Australia.
"With me now being here going on my third season, the thought has crossed my mind a few times about trying to get my permanent residency," he said.
"I am getting pretty close to that now so the process is in the club's hands and we are trying to work on that behind the scenes, but for now I'm just worrying about this season and trying to get it done with the team. We have had meetings about putting together a plan of action for that to happen so keep a look out for it down the track."
While it is surprising that someone with the pure talent and dynamic playmaking and scoring ability of Nichols is yet to get a shot in the NBL as an import, it would be downright baffling if he didn’t as a local.
It is something that Nichols is hoping eventuates down the track but he understands all he can do is let his performances on the court do the talking.
"Overall I want to go and play in the NBA and I'm not giving up on that dream. But as an athlete sometimes you have to be realistic with where you are and the one thing I have learned is that doesn’t take anything away from how hard you can work in pre-season, off-season and during the season," he said.
"I honestly thought I might have got a chance in the NBL last season but I just try to control what I can control, and try not to look too far into that. I just want to take advantage of the opportunities I do have and I'm grateful to the Slammers for having me this long and I'll just make the most of whatever other opportunities come my way. Hopefully I get a shot at it at some point."
Before coming to Australia to begin life as a pro after his college career, Nichols knew little of this country.
But given some of the horror stories he's had of some experience in Europe, while some players have things go well for them, he feels lucky that he's walked into such a good situation at the Slammers and in Bunbury.
"Coming here in that first year, I was kind of blind about Australia. I didn’t know much about it basketball-wise and really lifestyle-wise all I knew about was snakes and spiders, and all the exotic animals you guys have here," Nichols said.
"But in terms of basketball, I had an open mind and didn’t really know what to expect or how to take it. Now since I've been here it has been great and I definitely don't regret the decision at all. It has been a good experience and a good learning tool for me in my career. I just take this experience and try to grow from there."
Photo by Ashley Pearce