Chesterton Tribune

Matt Nover playing in Europe, still keeps an eye on Hoosiers

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EDITOR’S NOTE: Former Chesterton Tribune Sports Editor Peter Elliott has kindly allowed us to reprint the following story about former CHS and IU basketball player Matt Nover.

BY PETER ELLIOTT

Anderson Herald-Bulletin

Japan. Switzerland. Australia. Portugal.

It sounds like the itinerary for a well-traveled diplomat, but in this case it’s the career destinations of one of the key players from Indiana’s last Final Four team.

Matt Nover was the starting center on the 1992 IU squad that advanced to the Final Four in Minneapolis, losing in a semifinal game to eventual national champion Duke.

He was not the brightest star on a team that produced eventual NBA players Calbert Cheaney and Greg Graham. But he was an effective post player that more than held his ground in the Big Ten’s grueling wars in the paint.

The perseverance that transformed him from a lanky kid at Chesterton High School into one of Bob Knight’s favorite workhorses has paid off handsomely in his professional career.

Nover, 31, is playing for Avero Baskets in Portugal, and by all estimations, enjoying his basketball life far removed from the spotlight of the NBA.

He has played in Portugal the last three seasons on different teams, yet his complaints are few.

“I love it here,” Nover said in telephone interview Wednesday. “I’m playing real well right now and I’m in a good situation.”

The same could be said for ‘92, when the Hoosiers powered to the Final Four under somewhat similar circumstances to this season.

Ranked in the top 10, IU lost its final regular season game in an upset to NIT-bound Purdue. This was before the Big Ten Tournament was in place, so IU had time to stew over its loss before plowing to four double-digit wins in the tourney, including a victory over Shaquille O’Neal and LSU.

Although this year’s IU team didn't have the same lofty ranking, the end to its regular season was similar. Defeated on a buzzer-beating 3-pointer by former Hoosier Luke Recker, Indiana’s loss to Iowa in the Big Ten Tournament left a similarly bad taste on the team's collective lips.

“I knew this team had a lot of talent, but I didn’t know how they would play together as a team,” said Nover, who has followed the team religiously over the Internet without the benefit of American television. “They had a lot of ups and downs - games where they played great, games where they played horrible, games where they played in-between.

“That loss to Iowa probably hurt, and they really took off from there. They have won every game in the tournament differently. They beat Duke with their inside game and beat Kent State with 3-pointers. It's been really awesome to see the way they’ve come together.”

Nover isn’t without face-to-face contact with this team.

He played pickup games last summer in Bloomington with the likes of Jared Jeffries and Dane Fife. While returning to IU during his offseason is nothing new for Nover, last year gave him a little bit different feeling.

“It was obvious these guys could really play,” Nover said. “The guy that surprised me a little is (point guard) Tom Coverdale. I didn’t play with him much and he is kind of a quiet kid, but he turned out to be quite a leader. It’s great to see and still be a part of.

“I'll always be an IU basketball player. That’s something I’ll never get away with.”

Nover also gave a hearty thumbs-up to IU coach Mike Davis. Nover established a friendly relationship with Davis when he was one of Knight’s assistants.

Davis played and coached extensively in the Continental Basketball Association, and that experience rubbed off on Nover in a business sense.

“He knew a lot of players and coaches and agents who dealt with guys in the CBA, and that helped me out,” Nover said. “He's never been anything but nice toward me. He said the door was always open for me to come back whenever I wanted.”

And certainly it would have been just as easy for Davis to turn his back on Nover in an effort to distance himself from Knight. Nover last spoke with Knight last summer shortly before The General was named head coach at Texas Tech.

As with IU, Nover followed his former coach’s run to the NCAA Tournament over the Internet.

“As good of a coach as (Knight) is, it didn’t surprise me he did well at Texas Tech,” Nover said. “He can win no matter who he has. He just knows the game of basketball.”

That doesn’t mean that Nover thinks Knight got a fair shake when he was fired by IU, but he sees that as an element of the past that is increasingly distant with this year's success.

“What went down went down, and it wasn’t fair to everyone involved,” Nover said. “I think both IU and coach Knight have moved on. I’m just glad it’s all over with.

“Getting to the Final Four cleans up a lot stuff that may still be lingering around. Everybody in the program is happy as hell to make it to a Final Four, and it’s especially big for guys like (Jarrad) Odle and Fife who have gone through so much.”

All they have left to go through is one or two basketball games, and according to Nover, it doesn't get any better.

“The energy and the atmosphere at the Final Four is so electric that you can’t believe it unless you’ve experienced it,” Nover said. “You have to just play hard and play together. They ought to have plenty of confidence going in. They have as good a chance as anyone to win.”

As for Nover, he’ll keep plugging along. He’s averaging 15 points and nine rebounds per game and is about to receive dual citizenship between the United States and Portugal. This will allow him to play freely with any European team, bypassing restrictions most leagues have on the number of Americans any team can have.

“It’s something that was suggested to me, and it will free me up for more opportunities in Europe,” Nover said. “I still love playing basketball. As long as my body holds up and I still enjoy doing it, I’ll stick with it.”

 

Posted 3/29/2002