“Success is a journey, not a destination. The doing is often more important than the outcome.”
Those words, from the late Arthur Ashe, symbolize the basketball journey that collegiate forward Novian Cherry has been on.
Cherry’s journey hasn’t been an easy one.
He grew up in a single parent household, raised by his mother along with his brothers. He also has had to deal with all the doubters about his game, overcome obstacles in life, and being labelled as the “underdog” more often than not.
Listed with only one year left of eligibility* left in college, it would be assumed that his journey is nearing the finish line.
Instead, Cherry’s journey is just beginning, and he’s looking forward to proving even more people wrong.
After his high school career came to a close, Cherry committed to San Diego Mesa College, where he quickly developed into a junior college standout.
In his two seasons, he combined to average 19.7 points, 6.0 rebounds, and 1.7 assists per game. As a sophomore in 2014-15, he finished the season averaging 17.5 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 1.3 assists per contest.
“My experience at Mesa was probably two of the best years of my life,” said Cherry, reflecting back on his time with the Olympians. “The coaching staff believed in me and allowed me to play through mistakes, which helped me gain more confidence on the floor.”
Cherry finished his career at San Diego Mesa College as the all-time leading scorer in men’s basketball. Cherry also holds the record for most points in a single game, with 49.
“The accomplishment for me was special because I had the chance to finally make my mark somewhere and also it showed me what I was capable of.”
As a result of his stellar career, Cherry received several high national rankings as a junior college prospect.
He was ranked the #1 small forward in the 2015 Recruiting Class, #1 JUCO recruit in the state of California, and the #9 JUCO prospect in the entire nation.
Several big time programs showed interest in Cherry, including the UNLV Runnin’ Rebels, Oregon Ducks, New Mexico Lobos, and Iowa State Cyclones. Other smaller programs were high on Cherry and offered him a scholarship, like Western Kentucky, Hartford, and Iona, among others.
However, Cherry signed with the Savannah State Tigers, to play for Horace Broadnax, starting in the 2015-2016 season. However, Cherry would only play ten games for the Tigers before leaving the program for personal reasons.
Cherry currently is looking at several Division I, Division II, and NAIA schools to play at next season. While the next chapter of his basketball journey is still in the works, he does have plans already in place in case basketball doesn’t work out. The game means a ton to him, but he knows there’s much more to life, and he’s giving himself plenty of options.
“I want to become a registered nurse,” said Cherry. “I’ve always wanted to help people; that is something that has always been apart of me.”
“I decided to pursue nursing because not only is it a great career, but the demand for male nurses is very high as well.”
Just because he is looking at alternative options, don’t think that the game of basketball doesn’t hold a special place in his heart.
“The game of basketball has always been apart of my life,” added Cherry. “I remember wanting to play at an early age because of my older brother. I love the game so much and I am extremely passionate about it.I love the atmosphere the game has and the excitement it brings.”
“Basketball has caused me to build relationships that I will have for the rest of my life and also have shown me places that I’d thought I will never see.”
Some of the relationships that he has been fortunate enough to develop over the years are ones he will never forget. He got to meet and play with San Antonio Spurs’ forward Kawhi Leonard and Atlanta Hawks’ point guard Jeff Teague.
Cherry says both Leonard and Teague gave him advice that he will take with him wherever life takes him.
Cherry on Leonard’s advice:
“Just seeing how humble he was caused me to try and mimic the way he approaches workouts and also his mindset.”
Cherry on Teague’s advice:
“Teague told me, “when you get to the league you have to develop a floater/mid range game because the bigs are tall and athletic”. For him to say the words “when you get to the league” it inspired me because he is at the level I want to be at. I will always remember that day.”
Cherry doesn’t play the game for selfish purposes. Each time he laces up his shoes and steps on the hardwood, he plays for his mother.
“My mother is my rock and also my role model. She has sacrificed over and over for us. I have seen her struggle many times and it shows me how strong a woman can really be. We share a lot of good experiences that will live with me forever.”
Cherry made her a promise that one day he can provide her with something ‘special’.
“When I play professional ball, the first thing I am going to do is buy the house we grew up in and renovate it. I want to provide for her so she will not have to work again. I want to bless her like she has blessed me over the years.”
“I want to remember as the kid who overcame all the doubts and obstacles to find success,” added Cherry. “For the people who know me know I came from the bottom and are still surprised on what I have accomplished. I have been the underdog my whole life and it caused me to always carry a chip on my shoulder.
“I’ve been through a lot and I’m still young, but my experiences have built up my character.”
* Cherry currently has one year left of eligibility but is seeking to get a year back of eligibility from the NCAA due to the reasons why he left Savannah State.