TSU's Joirdon Karl Nicholas has enjoyed the journey
Joirdon Karl Nicholas. Photo courtesy TSU Sports Information.

As a young man coming out Glenda Dawson High School in Pearland, Joirdon Karl Nicholas looked forward to experiencing a place different than Houston, playing college basketball and bringing his mom home a degree.

Nearly five years later, Nicholas has played a lot of basketball and delivered on his primary job of obtaining his college degree but he has accomplished much of that right here in Houston. His trek began at University of Montana, diverted to Stephen F. Austin and finally made it home to Texas Southern.

“It’s been a long journey,” said Nicholas, who was Montana’s first signee ever from Texas and played in 30 games for the Grizzlies as a freshman. “It’s been hard, it’s been a lot of trials and tribulations. It’s been a lot of ups and downs. But I’ve always told myself, `You are built for this. This is what you want to do.’”

The 6-foot-9 power forward’s journey has taken him to some intriguing places while creating a lifetime of memories. Nicholas, the 17-ranked player in Texas as a senior at Dawson, won a Big Sky Conference championship and made his first NCAA Tournament season in his lone season with the Grizzlies and then with the Tigers has won a SWAC championship, made it to the NCAA Tournament where TSU won a game and then this season was a major part of the HBCU program making history when it knocked off 20th-ranked Florida.

The best part is it isn’t quite over yet.

“It means a lot,” said Nicholas, who graduated last month with a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Health Studies and is now in graduate school working toward a Master’s in Sports Management. “I’m from Houston, I rep Houston. Everything I do is for me and my people. I love to represent where I come from and who I am.

“So it’s just big because I have kids from where I went to school and nephews that look up to what I’m doing. That’s big. With me, it’s all about what you leave behind. It’s big to me. It’s no better feeling than just knowing I was a part of something.”

He was a part of history last month when the winless Tigers, fresh off a 27-point loss at Louisiana Tech, went into Gainesville, Fla. and knocked off the Gators, 69-54. Nicholas was unstoppable in the paint, going 7-for-7 from the floor to finish with 14 points in helping power the Tigers to the SWAC’s first win over a ranked SEC school in the AP poll era dating back to 1936.

SEC teams had been 51-0 against SWAC opponents before Dec. 6.

“That right there just changed the momentum,” said Nicholas, whose team was 5-9 overall and 3-2 in SWAC play. “I would like to say it changed the momentum for the whole team. Guys see you doing that and they are going to turn up.

“I definitely felt like it was a tone setter.”

The Tigers haven’t gotten off to the start in the conference season they had hoped after dropping games against Southern and Alcorn State, but the nucleus of last season’s team is still intact, there is a belief things will smooth out as the season goes and into tournament time.

The Tigers’ motto this season is “Run it Back.”

“We have the same guys that won a ring last year, but we added a few more great pieces,” said Nicholas, who is averaging 10.4 points and 5.8 steals while coming through with 11 blocks as the Tigers energy leader and glue guy. “Nothing less than what we did last year. Everything we did last year, we need to double up on and do better.”

In the meantime, Nicholas is enjoying his journey and where it has touched down.

“It literally took me two schools to get into the right situation,” he said. “I wouldn’t trade it for nothing.

“When I got to TSU, I felt everything that I had been missing, the family feel, every coach on the coaching staff wants you, every coach on the coaching staff talks to you, they are there for you, they want to see you shine, they want to see you succeed. It was like an easy no-brainer.”