Tuesday, March 3, 2020

From The Director’s Desk Feat: Fran Nicolas (NJ Scholars)

Every so often a new team pops on the Spotlight scene and heavy expectations. This year NJ Scholars seem to be that squad. They are new to the Nike circuit and also participated in the Spotlight tournaments. We sat down with one of their directors Francis Nicolas to get some insight on this new program and here’s what he had to say. 

From The Director’s Desk Feat: Fran Nicolas (NJ Scholars) 

BS: How was the NJ Scholars Program established? 

FN: NJ Scholars Elite Youth Basketball program was established through years of hard work, dedication and perseverance. I believe Nike, along with the basketball community, recognized our commitment to doing things the right way over the last dozen or so years. Our longevity and track record developing players without any sponsorship gave us a strong foundation for the NJ Scholars. 

BS: What are the goals for the NJ Scholars program? 
FN: The first goal is to provide the best platform for developing complete next level players. Complete players mean ones who perform at a high level on and off the court. The second goal is for NJ Scholars to be a community focused organization that supports activities that help young people and their families. These activities will be more than just basketball related – for instance supporting food pantries and addressing food insecurity in NJ which we have done in the past. 

BS: Who are some of the top prospects that NJ Scholars are attracting? 
FN: Walk quietly and carry a big stick. Mike, I can’t give out that information but we are building teams from 12U-16U and are looking for top talent at each level. 

BS: What has been some of the best moments of NJ Scholars thus far?  
FN: I can’t pick one specific moment. It is early but there have already been many. The opportunities and visibility that you and b-ball spotlight have given us would certainly be up there! 

BS: What were some of the obstacle’s you guys had to encounter thus far? 
FN: The biggest obstacle is staying focused on building a program for the long term and not getting thrown off course trying to do something that looks good right now or that undermines our future. Luckily I’ve been blessed to have a strong circle of great people that I can lean on. 

BS: How do you think the NJ Scholars stack up against some of the other top programs in the Northeast? 
FN: We are all here to service the youth in our respected areas and there are different approaches and flavors. Being a part of Nike Elite Youth Basketball, which is widely regarded as the most competitive and visible circuit, has its challenges for all of the teams that are fortunate enough to be selected. We are laser focused on how we build an organization that is second to none in terms of how we serve our players - among other things. 

BS: You guys have two of the top Class of 2024 prospects in the country in Anthony Gikes and Nas Cunningham, what do you think about this duo? 
FN: Anthony has a world of talent. He can play four positions right now. We have to challenge him to get better but give him enough rope to make mistakes and grow. Nas…so he’s been with me since 3rd grade and he is a unique talent. He has every tool in his bag and an incredibly high ceiling. However, we have to get him to turn the switch on, and keep it on. Both players have a bright future. Our job is to develop them and give them a platform to showcase their talent. By the way, we have other talented players who we also have high expectations and intend to develop and showcase as well.