Everyone thought Jonathon Nicola was a 17-year-old junior from South Sudan, in Canada on a student visa, working his way towards a shot at the NBA dream. Now it turns out he's likely just another 30-year-old dunking on punks too young to compete with him.
His on-court victims have little sympathy for the extenuating circumstances.
According to the Windsor Star, the Canada Border Services Agency detained Nicola for allegedly violating the Immigration Refugee Protection Act.
Speaking from this author's personal experience, it's decidedly more fun to play basketball with people below your skill level, lest you perform like the Jew with asthma you actually are. But for Nicola, the situation's much more complex than wanting to play with the fifth graders at the JCC. His goal likely wasn't to inflate his basketball abilities by playing at a lower level. According to the Star, Nicola said he came to Windsor in November 2015, claiming it was just days before his 17th birthday. "He said he left South Sudan, his disease-ridden, wartorn home, for a better life in Windsor."
If true, Nicola's not just taking advantage of his 30-year-old, six-foot-nine build to dominate the high school competition at Ontario’s Catholic Central High School. It reportedly took him six months to get his visa to leave South Sudan. "With the war going on, terrorism and all this, they make it real double hard," he said. Details are scarce, but the visa may have had something to do with his basketball abilities. It almost certainly hinged on his age. Nicola was living with his head coach thanks to a program called Canada Homestay, "which finds homes for foreign students."
It goes without saying that any shot at the NBA is dashed for him if the allegations are true—a 17-year-old has limitless potential while a 30-year-old is nearly washed up in NBA years. What's more depressing is what might happen to his future if he's completely kicked out of the country.
Nicola is not the first to hear accusations that he's juiced up on the natural steroid of age. In 2010, a "boyish-looking 22-year-old posed as a 16-year-old sophomore phenom" in Texas before authorities put him in jail for fraud, according to ESPN. Then there are the baseball players, like Miguel Tejada, who flubbed their age for a better shot at the Major Leagues.
"A few of my friends know of my background, how we live over there," Nicola said in January of his Canadian friends. "I don't know how many of them have a clue of how it is in Africa."
If Nicola manages to stay in Canada, it still won't be all fresh roses and sneakers. He'll have to answer to the bitter, 17-year-old tweeters he schooled on the court.