On Tuesday night, the New England Black Wolves used their first pick in the 2018 NLL Entry Draft (No. 26 overall) to select Jackson Nishimura.
The 21-year-old Nishimura grew up in Toronto as a fan of the Rock. He cheered on New England Black Wolves’ head coach Glenn Clark and assistant coach Jim Veltman – the duo helped the Rock win five NLL championships – and eventually played for Clark as a member of the Junior A Toronto Beaches. Black Wolves’ assistant coach Clem D’Orazio is also a member of the Beaches’ coaching staff.
Now he will be suiting up for Clark as a rookie with the Black Wolves. Two days after returning home from Philadelphia, where the draft was held, Nishimura was still soaking in what happened Tuesday.
What were your expectations going into the draft?
“Glenn Clark coached me for the (Toronto) Beaches so I talked to him for a bit after the (Toronto) Combine. He told me he thought I might go first three rounds, so I was optimistic for that and then there was a mock draft that came out and I was ranked in the fifties, so I really didn’t know what to expect when I got there. They told me I should be there physically for the draft, So I was just kind of waiting for my name to be called. When it was, I was pretty relieved.”
Being from Toronto, do you have a lot of memories of watching Glenn?
“I watched him and Jim Veltman, actually. He was one of the big dogs when I was super young. We had season tickets and I would go to all those games with my dad when he was the captain.”
So what does it feel like now to know you will be playing for Glenn and Jim in the NLL?
“It’s honestly just pretty surreal. I think those are two guys who I can learn a lot from, so I am just excited for the experience and looking forward to it.”
Were there particular qualities you liked about Glenn and Jim as players?
“With Glenn, I think he really played with that edge. He tried to tell us that throughout my Beaches’ career. To play with an edge and never take a step back from anyone else. So I try to do that. And Jim, I think he did it all. It’s been awhile since I saw him play, but he was kind of the poster boy for doing all the right things, working hard and getting to those places that aren’t too fun to get to.”
Does it make it a little easier knowing you will be going to an NLL team where you are familiar with the coaches?
“I’m looking forward It because I have played for them before and I kind of know what to expect. At the same time, I’m trying not to get too comfortable because I know this is an entirely new team and new league and I’ve got to step in there as the new guy and try to earn everything that is going to come my way.”
When you read the scouting report on you, there is a lot of talk about your speed and quickness, but also the suggestion that you need to get bigger. Is that something you’ve heard?
“For sure and I’ve kind of embraced that. I know where my strengths are and I’m aware of my weaknesses. That’s part of my game, and as an athlete, it’s something I’m working on and will continue to work towards. That’s one thing that’s in my control. It’s one thing I can change so I’ve just kind of embraced it and I’m going to work hard to beef up and improve my all-around game….The game as a whole is going to be at a level that I haven’t seen before, so I need to step into that and elevate my game to a point where I can compete.”
For Black Wolves’ fans who have not seen you play, can you describe your style of play?
“I would say my game is built kind of around speed and skill. Get the ball up the floor quick and create opportunities off the back end. I’d say I have a good stick. Hopefully, create offense out of transition while still being defensively responsible.”