It doesn’t matter the score or the situation — Nick Colella goes all out when given an opportunity to do so.
Whether seizing a chance to join coach Patrick Chambers’ squad after beginning his career at a commonwealth campus, attaining a scholarship for his final academic year or gaining more playing time this season, he has continued to make the most of his chances to succeed.
Colella said he’s tried to focus on doing everything the way Chambers has preached, and his work ethic has not gone unnoticed. The coach — a former walk-on at Philadelphia University — named the senior a team captain heading into conference play earlier this month and has often referred to the guard as the hardest working player on the team.
Further, a Twitter account has been created, titled “@ColellaDown”, which counts the number of times the guard lays out for a steal or takes a charge in a given ballgame — something that’s become a very common sight of the scrappy player this season.
“Yeah…my friend told me about it,” Colella said with a smile when asked about the aptly-named Twitter handle.
Colella has come a long way since his two-year career at Penn State Behrend, where the New Castle native spent more games coming off the bench than starting. After joining Chambers’ Division I squad through a walk-on tryout in 2010, Colella redshirted a season before seeing consistent playing time by the end of last season.
Heading into his first full season on scholarship this year, the senior looked back fondly on the days leading up to when he found out he’d soon be accomplishing his childhood dream last January.
“I just really enjoyed being on the team,” Colella said. “I didn’t want to ask [if I’d be put on scholarship]. I just continued to come every day and practice hard. One day, coach came up to me and said, ‘We’re enjoying the way you play. You play hard. We want to put you on scholarship.’ ”
Colella said words could not describe his feelings after learning the news, and it helped increase his sense of urgency heading into this season.
This urgency has helped him garner more playing time this season, as he’s averaged 24.4 minutes per game. Colella has occasionally had positive offensive performances — including a 15-point effort against Duquesne on Dec. 29, when he led the team with five three-pointers.
However, Colella’s impact has more often been the product of his aggressive defense, highlighted by his willingness to dive for loose balls and put his body on the line.
Forward Ross Travis said this style of play has become expected of the guard.
“That’s just Nick’s character when he’s on the court,” Travis said. “He’s just going to give it all and he’s going to put his body out there. He does it for the team, not just for himself.”
Whether joining the team as a walk-on or laying out for a steal, Chambers said Colella has succeeded in sparking the team with energy and making the most of his gradually increasing opportunities within the program.
And it’s been this intense attitude the senior brings to every game and practice that Chambers said has allowed for his improvement this year, not only as a player, but also as a leader.
“He’s appreciative of the opportunity that we gave him and he’s not taking it for granted,” Chambers said. “To me, that’s a special kid and he’s going to be a successful man no matter what he does.”