It was the Summer of 2010 and I was the coach of the Manning Intermediate basketball team that was set to take on the Canterbury Intermediate Schools indoor tournament. In an attempt to appear professional and give my boys a little boost, I pulled on my suit I had bought for my school ball earlier in the year and threw on a tie for good measure. It quickly became apparent that I wasn’t the most professional looking person there, not by a long shot.
We had played a few games and were looking good for a semi-final berth. While the boys were having a break between games, I decided to go scout the potential finalists from the other side of the draw. I didn’t have to go far. The first court I went to featured a game involving defending AIMS games (the national intermediate school competition) champions Cobham Intermediate. Immediately one player stood out.
“Who’s that guy there, that kid with the scruffy hair” I said to one of the boys on the team. “That’s Shou.” He replied. As quickly as that conversation had begun and ended, the kid I knew as “Shou” grabbed the rebound and had gone coast to coast for an easy layup, displaying the body control and dribbling ability a kid 5 years his senior would have been proud of.
I never had to fully gameplan for Shou, as we were bundled out of the semi-finals by an impressive Christchurch South Intermediate team. I am almost thankful for that, as I had no idea what I was going to throw at him. Cobham went on to repeat as AIMS games champions that year, meaning that Shou won the title in both years at intermediate school.
The next year while playing for my club side in the Canterbury U20 competition, we had an injury and a couple of our players had gone home for the university semester break. We were short on numbers and had to call up two boys from the U17 side, Shou was one of them. At just 13 years old, Shou was about to play real minutes against guys at university. He didn’t look out of place at all.
It came as no surprise to me that Shou (by this time I had learned his last name to be Nisbet) made the final cut for the 2014 Canterbury Rams squad. Nisbet was kind enough to allow me to interview him on his rapid rise through the Canterbury basketball ranks, and what the scruffy-haired kid from Cobham Intermediate had planned for the future. Here’s what he had to say:
Sam Garriock: First of all congratulations on the call up to the Rams my man, how did you receive the news?
Shou Nisbet: Ah I trailed for the squad then trained with them for a month, then the coaches just called out the team at the last squad practice.
SG: Was it a shock when you heard your name called? How did you react?
SN: Yeah I was pretty suprised, I just stood there but in my head I was real stoked (laughs).
SG: Must have been a pretty special meal for dinner when you got home then? Parents whip up your favourite dinner?
SN: (Laughs) Yeah i just wanted souvlakis so we got those.
SG: Last time I played with you was when I was in high school which would have made you what, year ten? Always remembered you as a smooth athlete and a solid shooter, how has your game developed since then?
SN: (Laughs) Pioneer eh! Yeah in year 9! (Laughs). I’ve been trying to work on my handles and keep working on my jumper to make it more consistent. Also to be smarter just playing the game.
SG: You were a 3/4 wing back then, how tall are you now?
SG: Must have shot up a little! So you’ll play on the wing for the Rams? Or do they see you as more of a one?
SN: More of a one.
SG: Is that more because of your lack of bulk defensively? How do you attempt to compensate playing against guys that are ten years your senior and might have 20kg on you?
SN: Could be. But I think its to develop my PG skills cause if I don’t grow any more its most likely the position I will play. Ahh I’m not sure if I will get minutes or how many but when I do get on the floor I’ll just have to move my feet and stay in front of my man. Not get beat.
SG: What do you envision your role to be on this Rams squad? What can you bring specifically to help this team win games?
SN: I haven’t talked to coach about it yet but I reckon my role will just be to work hard in training and compete with the older guys so I can keep improving and make them work harder which should just make everyone get better and we should get some wins.
SG: Oh so a bit of an apprentice role? If you do get some burn, how do you generally like to score? In isolation, pick and roll, coming off of screens, spotting up?
SN: Yeah. I’m not too sure yet I’ll have to talk to coach first before I know my proper role. I usually like to come off an on ball screen and just making reads of it.
SG: What’s the key read for a point guard to make in pick and roll situations? Is it more important how the primary defenders play it (the big guarding the screener and the man guarding you) or is it more about the back line of the defence?
SN: Its probably both depending on the situation but I guess more of the primary defenders.
SG: Looking to the future, what are some of the goals that you have in mind? Got your eye on a d1 NCAA scholarship?
SN: Yeah that’s the dream eh.
SG: Have you begun the recruiting process at all? Like do you have a profile out there that prospective coaches can access?
SN: Nah, not at the moment.
SG: Finally, have you got any specific goals you’d like to achieve this year?
SN: Yeah, I’m injured at the moment so a goal would be to make sure my ankle heals quickly and I don’t injure it again. Ahh win the U20’s grade for school and just to improve as much as I can this year.
SG: Thanks a ton man, I appreciate it. I hope that ankle comes right and best of luck for the season ahead.
SN: Yeah thanks mate.
After being a scruffy-haired kid known to the basketball community simply as “Shou” for a few years, it’s time for this 16 year old Burnside High School product to see what he can do against men. If past evidence is anything to go by, I doubt he will miss a beat.