In the science center classrooms at St. Bonaventure University, Andrew Nicholson -- 6 feet 9 and an NBA prospect -- is just like any other student who takes his education seriously.
There, his 7-foot-3 wingspan and court presence matters not to discussions of thermodynamics or electromagnetism.
Nicholson, perhaps the Atlantic 10 Conference's top NBA prospect-- and a solid bet for a career in physics after that -- is a major reason the Bonnies (12-9, 5-4 Atlantic 10) are on the edge of the A-10 race.
Duquesne travels to St. Bonaventure in western New York today to face Nicholson, a college basketball rarity for his combined abilities on and off the court.
- Matchup: Duquesne (14-9, 5-4 Atlantic 10) at St. Bonaventure (12-9, 5-4), 4:05 p.m. today, Reilly Center, St. Bonaventure, N.Y.
- TV, radio, Internet: CBS Sports Network, WPGB-FM (104.7), RedZoneMedia.com and GoDuquesne.com.
- Duquesne: Coming off two consecutive wins. ... Are 3-5 on the road, 2-2 in A-10 road tests. ... Beat the Bonnies, 66-52, at home Jan. 7, with F Sean Johnson scoring 17 points. ... Johnson (sick), however, is questionable for this game. ... Began the week ranked No. 3 in the nation in turnover margin at plus-5.7. ... Had five scorers in double digits last game.
- St. Bonaventure: Have won the past three meetings at Reilly Center. ... Are 8-1 at home. ... Led by 6-foot-9 F Andrew Nicholson (15.4 ppg, 7.1 rebounds per game). ... G/F Demitrius Conger averages 12 points a game and has 45 assists.
- Hidden stat: St. Bonaventure has won its A-10 home games this season by an average of 19.3 points per game.
"I enjoy learning about how the world works," said Nicholson. "Physics is just something I'm pretty good at."
So is basketball.
On the court, he averages a team-high 15.4 points a game, coupled with 7.1 rebounds, both among the top 10 in the league. He has 33 blocks.
Against Duquesne last month, he got into early foul trouble and was held to an atypical, 11-point, 6-rebound, 24-minute performance in a Dukes win.
The Dukes expect everything he can deliver today.
"You look at the guy and say he's probably the best NBA prospect in our league, which kind of speaks to his ability to disrupt you defensively and create things on offense," said Duquesne coach Ron Everhart. "We'll have our work cut out for us. We'll try to limit his touches and try to take away some of the things he does well.
"He's just not a banger, back-of-the-basket post guy. He can step out and put it on the floor a time or two. He's a good shot-blocker defensively and just so physically strong down there."
Nicholson's beginnings at St. Bonaventure were notable recalls Sister Margaret Carney, president of the university.
From suburban Toronto, he enrolled as a chemistry major before switching to physics because he loved the mathematics involved.
"Here is Andrew, without calling much attention to himself at all, signed up for two extremely difficult identities," Carney said. "When I heard, and this is secondhand, someone said 'Andrew, why are you taking something as hard as chemistry?' He said 'It's the only thing I'm really good at besides basketball.' He clearly loves the sciences."
One of his physics professors, Dr. Dave DiMattio, said Nicholson's basketball fame in the small, insulated campus near Olean, N.Y., doesn't mean he gets carried away.
"He's just a regular person in the class," said DiMattio. "He interacts really well with his peers. That's one of the advantages here. He's just a real guy. A lot of this doesn't necessarily go to his head."
"The main thing about Andrew off the court is that he's fairly quiet, not in a shy sense, but he just doesn't have a big ego that's out there demanding attention," she said.
Nicholson said he thinks about his basketball future.
After all, he practices and plays on Bob Lanier Court at the Reilly Center, the wooden floor named for Hall of Fame alumnus Bob Lanier, who led the Bonnies to the 1970 NCAA Final Four.
"I do think about it a lot. It's coming up soon," he said. "I'm just preparing, that's all. But, at the same time, my goal is to win the A-10 like every other team. We're taking it game by game."
His professors and classmates will be behind him.
"If the time comes [when] he needs to draw upon his academic background, I think he's more than capable of doing that," said DiMattio. "He's a good student.
"But I certainly understand if the NBA is his calling. Go for it."
NOTE -- Dukes junior forward Sean Johnson (strep throat) has not practiced all week and is questionable for the game.
Jenn Menendez: email@example.com or 412-263-1959.