BY KELLY ROCHE
A pair of Mississauga hoops legends helped high school athletes pound Peel Police on the hardwood Wednesday, scoring bragging rights while raising money for Fort McMurray relief efforts.
Orlando Magic forward Andrew Nicholson, of Father Michael Goetz Secondary School fame, lent his talent to the St. Marcellinus Spirit coed team as hundreds of students looked on.
Port Credit Secondary School alumnus Jasonn Hannibal, who now plays overseas, was also suiting up for the cause.
The Spirit led 16-5 after the first quarter and never looked back, winning 78-53.
Roughly $1,100 was collected — an amount Nicholson says he’ll be matching to support first responders.
“They risk their lives everyday to protect us,” said Nicholson.
Wildfire began spreading May 3, displacing more than 80,000 Fort McMurray residents.
Evacuees may begin returning on June 1, Alberta Premier Rachel Notley announced Wednesday; firefighters battled the blaze relentlessly.
“I just respect what they did over there in Alberta and this is, honestly, the least I can do,” Nicholson said.
Based on the final score, however, police officers weren’t exactly defending the rim.
“We met some young, excellent basketball players,” said Sgt. Josh Colley, chuckling.
“We sometimes know when we’ve met our match out there.”
Even though they’re playing for charity, his team always brings it and “we don’t lose often,” said Colley.
They did manage to score points for community engagement.
“That’s the sole purpose of our team,” said Colley.
Officers typically play a dozen games, raising between $10,000 to $15,000 for Cops for Cancer.
GOETZ OF GLORY
Meanwhile, Nicholson is expecting to see plenty of young talent as he returns to his alma mater from July 4-8 for his annual camp, 44 Hoops.
“It’s not just basketball,” said Nicholson.
“We teach the values of, you know, discipline, hard work, and education.”
He knows something about all of the above.
Nicholson graduated from Goetz in 2007, heading to St. Bonaventure for college ball while majoring in physics.
He was selected 19th overall in the first round of the 2012 NBA draft and is averaging 7 points and 4 rebounds per game with the Magic.
Like most GTA residents, Nicholson’s cheering on the Toronto Raptors as they square off against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Toronto was blown out by 31 points in Monday’s Game 1 but Nicholson said he’s confident they’ll put up a fight.
“I just hope the Raptors will show out and show them that they’re not just ‘other’,” he said.
“The good thing is, it’s best-out-of-seven so they have a couple more games to bounce back.”
A CBSSports.com poll listed three of the four remaining teams in the NBA Playoffs – the Warriors, Thunder, Cavaliers – referring to the Raptors as ‘Other,’ enraging fans and spurring the hashtag #WeTheOther.
Others, though, downplayed the perceived snub.
Nonetheless, “I think it’s ridiculous that they would put it up there,” said Nicholson.
Game 2 takes place in Cleveland Thursday at 8:30 p.m.