By Jeremy McDonald
SALEM, Ore.– The brotherhood of Payton Richardson and Alex Nicoli reached its mountaintop.
Since the sixth-grade Nicoli and Richardson had played over 500 games together over AAU ball and School Ball. Games were won and lost together; a State Championship was brought to Western Christian their Junior Year.
And as they prepare for their next chapter of their collegiate career, Nicoli at Missouri Baptisit University and Richardson to Seattle Pacific University, the duo known as ‘Fire and Ice’ were invited to be apart of the West Team of the 48th-Annual Oregon Basketball Coaches Association State Metro All-Star Series following their Senior season.
“Man, it’s been such a blessing, ever since I walked into the western gym as a shy little 6th grader with a big Afro and met Alex, we have become best friends. We have played over 500 games together with AAU and school ball and it’s been absolutely amazing,” said Richardson. “This journey’s been life changing, and so much more than basketball. But to cap off our high school careers together with an all-star game is pretty special. I wish we could’ve played one last game together with Pioneers jerseys on, but I know there will be plenty of pick up battles as the years go on. That’s my brother for life!”
And though the Pioneer Dynamic Duo weren’t able to play one more time in the All-Star game, to end with such of an accomplishment, a high honor, there was confidence that the two would find each other once more on the court if they were able to play.
“For the past seven years, people have always said, there fire and ice, the mist dynamic duo in Western History,” said Nicoli. “But it’s cool that we both get to end on such a great accomplishment. It’s a very high honor to get invited even though we sadly couldn’t play, but you know me and Payton would be finding each other a lot on that court if we did. He’s my brother for life and I honestly do wish I had one last time to play on that court with him.”
Joining those two athletes include Kennedy’s Luke Hall and Santiam’s Colin Thurston. Only the possibilities of how deadly the West team would have been with Hall’s shooting and Thurston’s John Stockton ability to pass the ball and sneaky ability to shoot the rock would have been on the court.
“It’s great! I’ve been playing these guys for all of high school, and some longer. I happy for each one of them because I’ve seen first-hand how hard they’ve worked to get to this point. They definitely deserve to be there,” said Thurston. “I was pretty emotional when I heard the news just because of the slim chance that I even got to play, let alone have enough success to be selected. I definitely would not have been in such a place without the amazing teammates I had though.
“(Santiam) truly shaped me into who I am today. Every coach I’ve ever had was focus on showing me how to be a better man before all else. Things like work ethic, teamwork, initiative, and so on. These translated onto the coach, or field, and only helped me grow as an athlete.”