Twelve thousand kilometers. That is the distance 5th year men's basketball senior Erik Nissen travelled this summer to go to the FISU 2017 Summer Universiade Games in Taipei City, Chinese Taipei. A native of Quispamsis, N.B., Nissen found himself travelling to the other side of the world to live out a dream.
Nissen said it was a short timeline from learning he had made the team to leaving for Taipei. "We were given about 2 months' notice" he explained.
Playing with athletes from across the country was a challenge for the Canadian team. With only a couple of weeks to get to know each other and to learn to play together, it made it difficult to face teams who had been training together for months.
Before heading to Taipei, team Canada traveled to Chicago, IL and Purdue University to train together. They had about a week of practices before they faced team USA in exhibition play.
"We lost by 2 [points] against them that week, and then they ended up winning a silver medal in the tournament, so we were right up there with the competition" said Nissen of the exhibition play against USA.
True Canadian Experience
During some of his spare time, the Axemen forward learned a lot about the cultural differences, but also similarities. When trying to get into a very popular restaurant in Taipei, Nissen had three families stop to assist him in translating the Chinese menu and making a reservation.
Nissen had a fantastic experience with the locals. "They say Canadians are the nicest people, but man it's Taiwanese" he said.
"They love Canadians I guess, that part was really interesting" mentioned Nissen after explaining that he almost felt like a celebrity during the games. As a member of the Canadian team, "We had people come up to us all the time asking; can I get a photo, can I get a photo".
Nissen said that right as Canada was about to enter the stadium for the opening ceremonies, citizens who were protesting broke through the barricade and almost 2 000 people stormed onto the field. This delayed the opening ceremony for about two hours, but when the ceremonies did restart, team Canada was the first team to walk in, with men's basketball leading them.
"The fans had waited almost two hours to see another team walk in, so when we entered they went wild. Almost 40,000 people cheering for you, it was incredible" said Nissen.
Nissen said he learned so much from the experience, his Canadian teammates, and the team Canada coaches.
"It was a pretty cool experience getting to play with a bunch of guys who were even a year older than me who will get to play European and pro basketball" explained Nissen of his team.
Nissen was extremely appreciative of all that he learned from his new coaches "You kind of get used to how your coach coaches you, and you get sort of thrown into cold water changing to a new coach. Just seeing how they coach and run their practices was interesting."
He also mentioned that playing against some of the top athletes in the world was a huge learning experience. Many of the European athletes have already begun playing basketball professionally, and that is something Nissen hopes to do one day. Watching these athletes play helped him realize the caliber of play that is expected in those professional leagues, and also that he is not far from reaching it.
Back to Acadia
Coming back to Wolfville for his final season with the Axemen, Nissen knows he has learned so much that he can bring to his team.
"I think the biggest thing I learned that would affect the team here in Wolfville is maturity. This was one of my few experiences travelling and playing outside of Canada and getting a different culture experience" explained Niseen. "I think it really opens your eyes to what kind of leader you need to be."
"Seeing those top-level players and how they were also top-level leaders really shows you what kind of person you need to be" said Nissen of playing with the best in Taipei.
Looking forward, he knows Acadia has a great shot at competing for a banner this year.
Nissen is excited for the season coming up. "There's a fire with the guys that you haven't seen before. I'm not sure if it's the talent on the team and the guys having to compete harder for those starting spots, but it definitely makes me proud. Like we're shaping up to be a top team."