The Rocket

From Piraeus, Greece to Slippery Rock, Pennsylvania

Freshman guard travels thousands of miles to fulfill dream of playing college basketball.

Freshman+Nik+Cazacu+goes+up+for+a+shot+during+The+Rock%27s+64-59+loss+to+the+University+of+the+District+of+Columbia+on+Nov.+17.+Cazacu+currently+has+30+points+on+the+season.
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From Piraeus, Greece to Slippery Rock, Pennsylvania

Freshman Nik Cazacu goes up for a shot during The Rock's 64-59 loss to the University of the District of Columbia on Nov. 17. Cazacu currently has 30 points on the season.

Freshman Nik Cazacu goes up for a shot during The Rock's 64-59 loss to the University of the District of Columbia on Nov. 17. Cazacu currently has 30 points on the season.

Paris Malone

Freshman Nik Cazacu goes up for a shot during The Rock's 64-59 loss to the University of the District of Columbia on Nov. 17. Cazacu currently has 30 points on the season.

Paris Malone

Paris Malone

Freshman Nik Cazacu goes up for a shot during The Rock's 64-59 loss to the University of the District of Columbia on Nov. 17. Cazacu currently has 30 points on the season.

Oscar Matous, Assistant Sports Editor

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For the eighth consecutive season, the Slippery Rock University men’s basketball team will have a player on their team that was not born in the United States. Freshman Nik Cazacu was born in Piraeus, Greece, located within the urban area of Athens, and lived a majority of his life there before moving to the United States when he was 16-years-old.
“My goal was to play college basketball,” Cazacu said. “I was given the opportunity to attend the Knox School, a prep school, in Long Island, New York, to achieve this goal.”
Introduced to basketball at a young age, Cazacu said he fell in love with the game. He played on a number of club basketball teams while growing up and was a member of the “All-Greece Champion in 16-and-Under,” as well was a member of the 15-and-under Greece National Team.
“Basketball in the United States is much more physical,” he said. “Players are more athletic here but you might see players with a bit more skill while playing overseas.”
Cazacu said basketball is highly popular in Greece in comparison to other European Countries.
“We have two of the best teams in all of Europe that compete in the Euro League, which is a very prestigious league,” Cazacu said.
After moving to the United States, Cazacu took part in a tournament in Lancaster, Pennsylvania where Ian Grady, the then-assistant coach for The Rock, got in contact with him to try and persuade him to come to SRU.
“I did my own research about the school,” Cazacu said. “I looked at the academics and obviously the athletics. I heard some pretty good stuff about Slippery Rock so I decided to come.”
Grady, now serving as The Rock’s acting head coach, said he attended the tournament and saw Cazacu play and felt that Slippery Rock would be a perfect fit for the six-foot-four guard.
“I saw him out on the court and knew that if we got him to come to Slippery Rock now, we would be able to groom him into a collegiate basketball star,” Grady said. “He helps us compete in every game.”
Cazacu said he wasn’t approached by any other schools within the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC), but was heavily recruited by schools farther Northeast, particularly in New York.
Cazacu said he believes he brings “much to the court,” for the Green and White this year.
“I think I bring a lot of defensive skills to the team this year,” said Cazacu, confidently. “I also ‘crash the board’ really well and collect a lot of rebounds. I play tough and I go hard every game.”
While The Rock returns just one player who was on the roster last season in redshirt junior Micah Till, Cazacu said the team has developed a solid relationship with each other over the course of the past several months. He said that he looks to Till and redshirt senior Vinny Lasley, who missed all of last year with a torn meniscus but played for The Rock during 2016-2017 season, as positive influences on the team.
“Micah and Vinny [Lasley] do a really great job leading the team on the court and in the huddles,” Cazacu said. “Even during the pregame and in the locker room they speak to us and help motivate us while making sure the entire team is on the same page.”
On the season, Cazacu has 30 points, averaging 4.3 per game, and is shooting 13 for 34 (38 percent) from the field. He is sixth on the team in the rebounds with 18 (2.6 per game).
With an overall record of 2-5 and -01 in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC), The Rock will look to come away victorious on Saturday as they take on West Chester University. The game will be the Green and White’s first home conference game of the season. Tipoff is scheduled for 3 p.m.

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From Piraeus, Greece to Slippery Rock, Pennsylvania