With his final collegiate season behind him, basketball senior guard Nijal Pearson is continuing to put in work toward the G-League, overseas play and eventually the NBA in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
March 11, The Texas State Bobcats defeated Appalachian State in the quarterfinals of the Sun Belt Conference Tournament in front of the second-largest crowd in program history.
A mere 16 hours later, the season was over for the Bobcats and Pearson, not due to a loss in the Sun Belt Tournament but due to the unforgiving pandemic, which halted the semifinal and final rounds of tournament play.
Nijal said he is still upset that his historic senior campaign was cut short.
“It’s extremely tough. It weighs on me heavy to this day,” Pearson said. “When you put it in context, basically I worked my whole life to get to that particular point where I was at and everything ended.”
Before the premature end to the season, Pearson led the Bobcats to an impressive 21-11 (13-7 Sun Belt) record including wins in 13 of their final 16 contests. During their rise to the No. 3 Sun Belt seed, Pearson also became the program’s all-time leading scorer with 2,122 career pointse, earning him the 2019-20 Player of the Year title.
Pearson said the team was just hitting their stride when the season was cancelled.
“I know for a fact no other team wanted to play against us,” Pearson said. “I feel like not just the Sun Belt needed to be on alert, I feel like we were about to put the nation on alert. We thought it was our year.”
But all is not lost in Pearson’s eyes. Despite missing out on the tournament portion of his senior season, Pearson said he is working harder than ever to make his NBA dreams come true.
“I’m ready. I’m staying ready. Whenever (pandemic restrictions) lift up, I’m going to be a better player than I was before,” Pearson said. “I’m getting solid work in (and) I’m improving by the day. This might be an advantage for me. It’s a blessing from God.”
Pearson said that his ultimate goal is to play against the best and put his hometown of Beaumont, Texas on the map.
“I just want an opportunity to play at the highest level against the best players in the world and show what a kid from Beaumont can do,” Pearson sad.
Pearson is determined to play on the NBA hardwood during his professional career but is open to alternative routes on his journey, including grinding it out overseas.
“Getting drafted is the rarest route (because) the margin of error is very small,” Pearson said. “I know where my end-goal is at, (so) it’s not about where I want to be at the age of 23, it’s where I want to be when I’m 30. Steady working, if it’s overseas or if it’s going to the G-League, I’m looking for the right situation… to show that I can play as a pro, everything is up for auction. I’m still blessed to play at a high level.”
With Pearson’s legacy set in stone in San Marcos, the athlete from Beaumont said he will continue to use his versatility on the court to make an even bigger name for himself.
“I’m a do-it-all guard. I’m a leader; I do things that don’t show up in the stat sheet and do show up in the stat sheet,” Pearson said. “I want to win. My main goal is to win games and I want to continue to become the best player that I can be every day. I want to improve every day.”
Whether it be practice, a game or a workout, Pearson looks at every day as a new opportunity. With his professional basketball route being unclear due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Pearson is certain he won’t be slowing down until his dreams are realized.
The NBA draft is still set for June 25, 2020, but the draft could be postponed. Click here to stay up to date with the NBA.