BSU student manager will be hard to replace
The roster includes three seniors who see court time, including the probable Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference Most Valuable Player James Ellisor, the program's all-time assist leader Bryce Tesdahl and 6-foot-10 post player Ryan Kinnell, who can pop the 3-pointer as well as dominate in the paint.
All three players have been instrumental in the success of this year's Bemidji State men's basketball team, which hosts Wayne State at 7 tonight in the opening round of the NSIC playoffs.
Ellisor, Tesdahl and Kinnell are valuable assets, but when Beaver head coach Matt Bowen looks into the future he sees a more pressing problem than filling the void that will be left by the graduation of those three key players.
"I worry about replacing James, Bryce and Ryan," Bowen said. "But I lose sleep when I think about having to replace Reid Nichols."
Nichols has been a contributor to the Beaver basketball program for five years and, although he has never scored a point, grabbed a rebound or dished an assist, the program would not have been able to rise to the top of the league without him.
"I'm the student manager," Nichols said. "I clean the locker room, I set up the gym and the scoreboard for the games, I hand out water, I set up film for practice and the games. I can sense what the coach and the players need and I do whatever needs to be done."
The best referees and umpires are the ones the fans never notice. That also holds true for student managers.
"Reid puts in long hours and he doesn't receive much notoriety even though he deserves it," Bowen said.
"The guys know what he does and they appreciate him. Reid definitely is a big part of this team."
BSU captured the NSIC championship Saturday night after defeating Winona State 94-84 in front of more than 2,000 people at the BSU gym. The post-game celebration included cutting down the nets, an event that is dictated by a team's rank and begins with the seniors.
"I was the fourth person to cut the net," Nichols said. "That was fun. It was an honor to represent Bemidji State that way."
"Reid doesn't get paid a thing but there are some rewards to being on the team," Bowen said. "He gets to travel with us, he gets some neat Beaver clothing and he has become a part of something very special.
"Reid and I have been together for five years, longer than anyone else in the program," the coach continued. "He has stayed with us that long because he loves the job. And we love having him. I don't know what we are going to do without him."
When he arrived at BSU after graduating from Armstrong High School in Golden Valley in 2007, Nichols spotted a flyer which was advertising for a BSU men's basketball student manager.
"Seeing that flyer brought back memories of our 2007 basketball team at Robbinsdale Armstrong," Nichols said, recalling his high school's second-place finish at the state Class 4A tournament. "I wanted to be part of the Bemidji State basketball team. I had to interview for the job but I got it."
After five years in his position, Nichols has some recommendations for anyone who may want to enter his line of work.
"You should be passionate and you need to be on time," he said. "But most of all you need to love what you do.
"Sometimes it can be stressful, especially when you are on the road and you can't find things like washing machines for the laundry," he continued. "But there is a little fraternity among student managers. When we are on the road they (the home team's manager) will help me out and I do the same when a team comes here."
Nichols has enjoyed his experience as a student manager and hopes to continue down this road after graduation.
"I've been keeping my eyes out looking for openings," Nichols said. "I've applied at the University of Florida for the equipment room and I'm looking at Georgia State.
"But no matter where I go I'm going to miss this job and being around these guys," Nichols added. "I hope that wherever I go next I'll be able to make these kinds of friendships. I can't wait to come back for our reunions and hopefully, some day this team will be inducted into the BSU Hall of Fame."
If that happens, Nichols will return to his alma mater as one of the four seniors on a team that made school history.
"It's been a great year," Nichols said. "It feels nice to know that everybody did a good job this year, including myself. This has been a fun year and one I'll never forget."