Back in the day, Nick Velasquez would be in the gym by 5 a.m. to get extra shooting reps.
No more. The former Star-Advertiser All-State selection from Punahou gets those shots up whenever he wants now. Life as a professional basketball player has its perks.
Velasquez recently signed with the BC Mad Foxes and plays in Yerevan, Armenia.
“Kawika Lyons’ agency actually helped me find the job. For this particular job, I ended up playing in a preseason tour and that’s how I ended up signing with the Mad Foxes,” Velasquez said.
He posted the highest individual player efficiency rating in Eurobasket Camp/Tour history, scoring 37 points in a game on 13-for-21 shooting with four rebounds, four assists, three steals and two blocks.
Velasquez graduated from Punahou in 2013. He was an ILH player of the year, two-time all-state pick and went on to play at Western Washington, Bakersfield Community College (Calif.) and Union (Tenn.). At Union, he averaged 11 points per game and shot 40 percent from 3-point range.
In 2018, the 6-foot-3 guard signed with a club in El Salvador.
“I have had a couple of jobs lined up since college, but a lot of it has fallen through,” he said. “So this my first official pro season.”
In 2019-20, he assisted Robert Shklov at Mid-Pacific. Playing the game, though, is a must while he’s in his prime.
“The season is about five months until April and the major goal is to win a championship out here. It helps set me up for other jobs because clubs like winning players,” Velasquez said. “All the other personal accolades and stats will fall into place, but the main thing is to win.”
The 5 a.m. workouts at 24-Hour Fitness set him apart from most high school hoopsters back in the day. Life after college has its freedoms.
“When basketball is your only thing on your schedule for the day, you find other times to work out. Usually, I’m in the gym about twice a day lately,” he said.
Other players from his era, like Josh Burnett of Maryknoll, have settled into non-sports careers. Former Kalaheo and UH-Hilo standout Kupaa Harrison, began playing professionally in Spain last year. Former Maryknoll all-state player Marcus Tobin is playing in Japan.
Former Konawaena and Washington State standout Chanelle Molina is in her second season in the Swedish Basketball League.
Velasquez has no regrets about sticking with the game.
“Everything happens for a reason, but if you keep putting the work in, your time will come. The work never fails,” he said.
Velasquez’s father, Richard, keeps close tabs on his playing career. His mother, Debi, was the driver when he put in the extra early-morning hours in high school.
“There’s not enough space for the amount of people I have to shout out that helped me get to where I am today,” he said. “I’d feel awful if I left out some, but, of course, I have to shout out my mother. She was always there keeping my head on straight and focused once I told her I wanted to be a pro basketball player at 7 years old.”
Armenia is a place he likes to partake in.
“I get some weird stares, but a lot of random people actually try and talk to me or take a picture with me. I’ve always been one to explore, especially when I leave the country,” Velasquez said. “It’s also very cheap and he taxis are like three dollars max, so it’s easy to get around. I’ve actually been here for a few months now, so I know most of the places to go.”
There is one dish that has become his favorite.
“I’d probably say for traditional Armenian food it’s chicken kebabs,” he said. “But they’ve got all types of food out here. I’ve been liking Lebanese food a lot lately.”