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The Hawkeye

The Student News Site of University of Louisiana Monroe

The Hawkeye

The Student News Site of University of Louisiana Monroe

The Hawkeye

Nika discusses hardships, personal growth

Nika Metskhvarishvili

Leaving the place you love to pursue the game you love requires courage. Thankfully for senior ULM basketball player Nika Metskhvarishvili, Monroe has proved to be the perfect place to call home. 

Nika hails from Georgia, a small eastern European nation no larger than Louisiana. As a child, his father, a former player, taught him basketball.  

“He played for four or five years, but he couldn’t really achieve anything,” Nika said. He wanted his kids to chase those dreams. It was really my father’s idea to get into basketball.”

While his father pushed him to play, Nika began to develop a love for the sport, and the two became inseparable.

“Wherever basketball takes me and however long it’s gonna last, I’m gonna keep doing it,” Nika said. “Because I think that’s my life at this point. I can’t see myself without playing basketball.”

Nika left home in 2019 for Stewart County Community College in Liberal, Kansas. He departed after a year due to personal reasons and found himself at New Mexico Junior College. A shutdown of the school due to the coronavirus meant Nika had to relocate, this time to Ranger Community College in Ranger, Texas. There, Nika and his team went all the way to the NJCAA Men’s Division I National Basketball Tournament’s Final Four. His successful season garnered attention from four-year universities, including ULM. 

Over the years, Nika cites his teammates as a big reason why his transition to the United States has been so smooth.

“Whether you want it or not, you have to be with your teammates all the time and develop relationships with them,” Nika said. “They automatically become your friends and family.”

The adjustments to language and culture were not the only difficulties Nika experienced during his transition to the United States. He is the eldest of four, being the big brother to a 17, 14 and six-year-old. Only seeing his family during summers meant missing a lot of quality time, especially with his youngest brother. Nika said he took on the role of a parent with his younger siblings at times.

“I think as a big brother, it’s my responsibility to teach them, share this experience and tell them right from wrong,” Nika said. “We do communicate with FaceTime and all, but it’s not the same. It’s almost like I don’t even know them that well anymore because they are just now growing up.”

Determined to be a successful role model for his brothers, Nika trained hard and became a sensational player. He led the team in blocked shots (22) and ranked second in rebounds during his sophomore year. He also earned preseason Third-Team All-Sun Belt Conference during the start of his junior year.

Unfortunately for Nika, a knee injury in late November cut short what could have been a breakout season. Nika said his time away from the game put him in a dark place.

“I was not able to walk for a month and a half, and I was on crutches. I felt like I was in some dark places with my mind,” Nika said. “I couldn’t play basketball anymore, and that’s what I’ve always done. It was as if I lost myself. I couldn’t figure out who I was, what my purpose was in life and what I was geared for.”

The darkness didn’t last forever. Nika found comfort in the arts, a passion he learned from his mother as a child. Later on, Nika’s drawings and doodles became sketches, which went on to be complete projects. Nika said his art helps him escape into his own world as a way to break away from the stress of the day.

An unused pair of white shoes served as Nika’s first major project to showcase his talents. He painted the shoes and showed his teammates, with many impressed to the point of requesting he paint their shoes.

“They were like, ‘yeah, do my shoes, do my shoes,’ and then I just started doing some other people’s shoes,” Nika said. “Then I actually got some good quality paint and different equipment, and I realized that I was doing really well, so I just kept doing it. Now it’s my hobby.”

Basketball season is approaching soon, and with that, Nika said his goal is to achieve last year’s expectations and exceed them.

“I’m working hard, you know. I’m getting better every day. I’m almost done with rehabilitation, and I’m about to get back on the court,” Nika said. “I’m looking forward to having a great season this year.”

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