Erik Nissen helps Canada win basketball silver at Commonwealth Games

New Brunswick’s Erik Nissen is flying home for Australia with some new hardware. The six-foot-nine forward from Quispamsis helped Team Canada’s basketball team win silver at the Commonwealth Games.

The six-foot-nine forward from Quispamsis helped Canada win its first basketball medal at the games

Erik Nissen of Quispamsis defends Nathan Sobey of Australia during the men's gold medal basketball game at the 2018 Commonwealth Games. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

New Brunswick's Erik Nissen is flying home from Australia with some new hardware. The six-foot-nine forward from Quispamsis helped Canada's basketball team win silver at the Commonwealth Games over the weekend. 

The silver is Canada's first basketball medal at the Commonwealth Games, and it was only the second time basketball had been included in the event. 

"It's still pretty surreal at the moment," Nissen said before boarding a plane back to Canada. "I never would have thought basketball was going to put me in the position to put me up on a podium, so this silver is so sweet."

Team Canada lost to Australia 87-47 in the gold medal game on Saturday night, but it was the semifinal game that was the thriller. 

Canada was down by one with just 5.1 seconds left in the game against New Zealand. Canada inbounded the ball and got it to Mamadou Gueye, who hit a tough three-point shot as time expired to ensure Canada a medal. 

Nissen, right, and teammate Grant Shephard enjoyed some of Australia between games. (Erik Nissen/Facebook)

After receiving the medal, the team had a full day off to enjoy Australia before flying home.

"We got to just chill on the beach, swim in the waves and eat some good food in the Australian sun," said Nissen. "Cannot complain about that."

Good experience

Team Canada was made up of some of the best university players in the country. 

The 22-year-old Nissen just finished his career with the Acadia Axemen in Wolfville, N.S., where he became one of the top players in the Atlantic University Sport conference.

Nissen averaged 18.3 points a game and led the conference in rebounds and blocks, with 10.4 rebounds a game and three blocks a game.

Nissen just finished his final season with the Acadia Axemen, where he led the Atlantic University Sport conference in blocks and rebounds. (Acadia Athletics)

Nissen's top game of the tournament came against Nigeria, when he was a defensive powerhouse. The big man blocked three shots and snatched three steals to go along with his six points in the victory.

Acadia Axemen coach Kevin Duffie said that after Nissen graduates in May, he'll be looking to play professional basketball, potentially in Europe. With that goal in mind, Duffie said, an experience like the Commonwealth Games is very helpful. 

"He would've played against some 10-year pros in this Commonwealth Games tournament," Duffie said.

"You just get to see what it takes, what the level is, some things that he might have to be conscious of and things that he might have to make sure he is ready to do when he starts trying out and playing in the professional leagues in Europe."

Good for province

Nissen showed off his defensive skills against Nigeria, blocking three shots and getting three steals. (Erik Nissen/Facebook)

Nissen was the only player from New Brunswick to make the Canadian squad that went to the Commonwealth Games, held on the Gold Coast in Queensland, Australia.

Over the past year, other Atlantic Canadians such as Nate Darling and Lindell Wigginton from Nova Scotia have been impact players for Canada Basketball. 

Duffie said that as more East Coast players compete at the top level, the better it's going to be for younger athletes in the Maritimes.  

"The East Coast has been represented quite well on the basketball scene for sure in the last little bit, which is good, which is exciting," Duffie said.

Sole New Brunswicker

"It's great for the province. Hopefully, it inspires another generation of basketball players to kind of keep pushing for that kind of level of play."

This is Nissen's second multi-sport event with the national team, and so far he hasn't had a New Brunswick teammate with him.

He hopes that changes soon. 

"Hopefully, this serves to inspire more NB athletes to try to reach the higher levels of sport," Nissen said.

"The experiences I've had through Canada [Basketball] and representing Team Canada have been life-changing."

About the Author

Philip Drost

Philip Drost is a reporter with CBC New Brunswick.