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
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
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
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
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
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.”