Nick Van Exel is a retired National Basketball Association (NBA) player who is currently the assistant coach of the Memphis Grizzlies. He has played for six NBA teams during his basketball career from 1993 to 2006. He was selected by the Los Angeles Lakers and became an NBA All-Star along with three of his other teammates. He caught the attention of Laker’s fans when he made the all-rookie second team. He also became the last Laker to score at Boston Garden when he scored a three-pointer at the buzzer to give the Lakers the winning point. Nicknamed ‘Nick the Quick’, he was famous for his free throw routine where he would choose to take his free throw attempts while positioning himself over a foot behind the free throw line.
Childhood & Early Life
Nick Van Exel was born on November 27, 1971, and was raised in Kenosha Wisconsin by his mother Joyce Van Exel while his father bounced in and out of prison. He grew up as a lonely child as his mother worked the night shift at Chrysler. He liked basketball and spent most of his free time at the local basketball courts.
Nick went to St. Joseph's High School in Wisconsin. He led his school team at the state tournament WISAA and made it to the state finals for two consecutive years from 1987 to 1989.
He wanted to play college basketball, however, his grades failed him to get admission to a top college so he picked the Trinity Valley Community College [TVCC] in Texas.
He played two seasons at the TVCC but never liked the place and described it as the worst time of his life. He cited racial discrimination between players and homesickness as his inability to perform at TVCC.
He then decided to concentrate on his school work to get good grades to get enrolled in a top-flight program. His plan worked and got transferred to the University of Cincinnati at the beginning of 1992 season where he joined the Bearcats under coach Bob Huggins.
In his junior year he led his team to the final four and in his senior season Nick led the team in points and assist until they lost to North Carolina in the elite 8.
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Nick Van Exel tried out for several NBA teams. He was selected in the second round for Los Angeles Lakers as the 37th overall pick in the 1993 NBA draft. Nick was positioned at the starting point guard spot from the very beginning—the very same position Magic Johnson held for 12 seasons in Los Angeles.
Nick became a favorite among Lakers fans after making it to the all-rookie second team. He pleased the fans with his playing style and his ability to make clutch plays.
The Lakers acquired Eddie Jones and Cedric Ceballos at the beginning of the 1994-95 season. Calling themselves the 'Lake Show' the Lakers went for playoffs. Nick and Eddie Jones were the core of the Laker’s rebuilding plan. Both the players playing as point guards helped the team through the playoffs in 1995.
Nick’s playing style and shooting speed earned him the nickname ‘Nick the Quick’. During his career with the Lakers he averaged 14.9 points and 7.3 assists per game finishing in the top ten in that particular category twice.
In 1996, he pushed a referee in a game against the Denver Nuggets. He was given a seven game suspension and a $187,000 fine. After five seasons with the Lakers, Nick was traded to Denver for Tyronne Lue and Tony Battie. During his time in Denver, the team never made it to the playoffs however, he achieved several career highs.
On February 21 2002, Nick was traded to Dallas along with Raef LaFrentz, Tariq Abdul-Wahad and Avery Johnson for Tim Hardaway, Juwan Howard, Donnell Harvey and a draft pick. He caught the attention of the Dallas fans by leading the team to a seven game series victory against the Sacramento Kings.
In 2003, Nick was traded again to the Golden State Warriors along with Evan Eschmeyer, Popeye Jones, Avery Johnson and Antoine Rigaudeau. From 2003 to 2004 he only played 39 games, a career low, as he chose to have a knee surgery. He was traded once again in 2004 to Portland Trailblazers. He again had to undergo knee surgery by the end of the season. He was waived by Portland on August 3, 2005.
On August 29, 2005, he was signed as a free agent by the defending champion San Antonio Spurs. Plagued by injuries he had announced before the start of the season start that this would be his last season.
In 2009, he joined as an assistant coach at Texas Southern University, a position he held for the 2009-10 season. In the 2010-11 season, he joined the Atlanta Hawks coaching staff and worked with them for three seasons.
In 2009, Nick joined the staff at Texas Southern University as an assistant coach, a position he held for the 09-10 season. Nick joined the Atlanta Hawks coaching staff in 2010 and worked with the Hawks for three seasons under head coach Larry Drew till 2012.
In 2013, Nick moved to the Milwaukee Bucks where he served as an assistant coach for one season under Larry Drew. Nick then was named an assistant coach for the D League's Texas Legends and in 2015 was promoted to the Head Coach.
In 2016, he moved to Memphis Grizzlies as assistant coach and is currently with them.
Family & Personal Life
Nick Van Exel is married but not much is known about his wife. He has a son named Nickey Van Exel, who was born in 1991.
A terrible tragedy shook Nick in 2010. His son, Nicky Van Exel shot dead his best friend Brandon Eyo. He did so out of the fear that Bradley would tell authorities about a string of robberies the two had committed together. In 2013, Nickey was convicted of murder and sentenced to 60 years in prison.