In only its second year as a program, Fort Erie International Academy (Canada) is making a name for itself as a breeding ground for elite Canadian basketball talent. After graduating Leonard Miller to the G League Ignite, one of the Falcons’ latest projects is developing 6’11” forward Christian Nitu. Nitu, a 2024 four-star prospect, was invited to the 2023 NBA All-Star Weekend in Salt Lake City, Utah to participate in the prestigious Basketball Without Borders Global Camp along with fellow countrymen Felix Kossaras and Hudson Ward. Playing on the international stage last summer at the 2022 FIBA U17 World Cup for Canada, Nitu gained invaluable reps and averaged almost six points in 12 minutes played per game. While still just scratching the surface, he possesses long-term upside due to a unique combination of size, skill, and fluidity.
As part of the Pro Insight Q&A series, Nitu discussed his basketball journey, having Romanian roots, the latest with recruitment, including openness to alternative routes, skills as a soccer goalkeeper, and much more.
For the next installment of the Pro Insight Q&A series, we present 2024 prospect Christian Nitu, from Toronto, Ontario, Canada:
Pro Insight: How did you get to where you are today? Talk a bit about your background and family.
Christian Nitu: Yeah, so my family is originally from Romania. They kind of moved down here, my parents met each other, talked a lot, and had me. But I feel like going into school, I always loved basketball. I love soccer, too, but I kind of liked basketball more. It was really intriguing for me. My friends all around me, we all played basketball. You know, I was never really good. I eventually grew and then watched a lot of film on guys like Tracy McGrady, Dirk, KD, Porzingis — like all those guys. Those wings, those forwards, those tall guys that could really handle it and shoot it. I kind of took skills from each guy and kind of put it into my own thing. People draw a lot of comparisons for me, but I kind of feel like when my high school time is done, I'm going to be my own player. I'm going to be the only Christian Nitu. So that's really what it is for me.
PI: Any other athletes in the family?
CN: There was no professional like world-level athletes or like high-level prospects from my background. Yeah, there was no one in my background like that so I guess I can say I'm the first one. I'm just honored and I have full support from my parents.
PI: For those who aren’t familiar with your game, what are your greatest strengths and playstyle?
CN: I really feel like I run really well up and down the floor, big strides, so good at rim running, just getting easy baskets like that. I’m a lefty and a lot of guys guard right-handed players, so sometimes I'll take it off the bounce and sometimes it's like a shock for defenders, 'cause when I cross from right to left they'll think I'm going right 'cause normally they guard right-handed players so that's one thing for me. I feel like my shot opens my game up because being able to pick-and-pop, being able to roll is a big part. It just opens up the floor, being able to pop, attacking long close outs with having big strides just allows me to get downhill. And of course going from coast to coast after grabbing a defensive rebound. Normally a big would look for a guard. I like to just push it up and then make a play from there. Like I said, you can play me anywhere from the two to the five. I feel like I don't really have a position. You can play me multiple actions, I can handle it really well. I can shoot it off the bounce. I could shoot in the mid-range. I can bang with guys in the post. So I feel like whatever the defense throws at me, I kind of have a counter.
PI: What do you feel you still need to improve on the most? What have you been working on?
CN: Now the main thing is on the defensive end. I can block shots, but just the instincts, defensively. I think I need better defensive instincts, which comes from experience. So I think with time I'll naturally get that by playing a lot, a lot of pick up, one-on-one and then of course AAU and my prep season. I feel defensive rebounding is also something I need to work on. Of course, I have the length and all the tools, but I just have to put everything together. Like I said, with experience and guys holding me accountable, I think I'll become a great two-way player, but I feel like it's just a matter of time for me. And like I said, ambition. Just having an ambition to do things and the drive to work on my weaknesses more than my strengths is just, I feel like with time, I’ll get there.
PI: What are your current measurements?
CN: I mean, right now I think my wingspan is 7’1”. It's not an official measurement. Like I said, 6’11”, 6’10.5”, around that range. My weight right now, I'm like 190, 195 pounds. So I mean, I'm not so worried about the weight, it's just the strength. Just getting strong and I feel like that weight will just come eventually.
PI: Do you have a training regimen? Who do you train with?
CN: Yeah, so with my coach from Fort Erie International Academy, whenever we workout we'd always start with foot speed. I feel like ladders and jump rope are a big part of my warm up because of course I’m playing out on the perimeter more. I like to play out on the perimeter. I like to break guys down. You gotta have quick feet. Just ladders and skipping rope every day, no matter if it's a workout or I'm at home, I try to get the foot speed stuff done for my warmup. Of course I do like your Mikans, get my touch around the rim, getting that soft touch. We get into a lot of three-level scoring and what I mean by that, depending on the defender I get, he’s a 6’7” big, aggressive, fast. I'd work on my bumps on the second level so at the mid-range. So just bumping and using my step back to shoot over guys. If it's a 6’10”, 6’11” slower-footed big man, just taking them out on the perimeter and blowing past them and using shot fakes, all that stuff. If you put a 6’3” athletic, quick guard on me, I'll just take it down in the post. So a lot of it is working on situational stuff. What it is in games is, like I said, what defender I get is how I’ll play so that's really what it is right now for the offensive side. On the defensive side, of course, I just get my pushups, my squats, my planks. Of course, I lift. I just gotta work on my body a lot and make sure I’m good for the whole season.
PI: How did the opportunity come about to attend Fort Erie International Academy?
CN: I was at my old school and I really sat down and thought about opportunity. Like what is a better opportunity for me to grow and experience stuff? You know, a lot of seniors from Fort Erie graduated so I feel like it was just set out for me, like the situation was good because there's not gonna be as many guys. Me just going in there and being able to make mistakes, and playing through my mistakes is just going to help me grow. So going into Fort Erie, being able to make mistakes, and learning from those mistakes is ultimately going to make me a better player, so that's really what it was for my decision, becoming more experienced. Winning while developing, developing while winning.
PI: Who have you enjoyed playing with?
CN: Yeah. I mean, there's a couple guys like Ishan Sharma — that's my teammate from the Canadian National Team. Char Yeiy, we played together previously as well. I think we’ll have a good season and a good bond.
PI: What are your short term goals you have for yourself as a player?
CN: Short term goals. I really want to get stronger, like I said, and flourish. I have all the tools I need, but once I put everything together I feel like I'm just gonna break out. Working on things on the defensive end, rebounding just to keep me on the court. And to be honest, sky’s the limit.
PI: What was your highlight playing at the U17 World Cup for Canada?
CN: I mean, it was a great experience. The World Cup was such a great experience for me to sit there and experience and to measure my game on a world level — see where I'm at on a world level compared to other guys my age. So it kind of gives me a taste of what I need to work on, a taste of things I need to do, and it was just a good experience. I learned a lot of things I need to do like we just talked about. I learned a lot of things I'm already good at. And of course with a lot of guys currently at Fort Erie, playing on that national team was helping build a bond with everyone. You know 'cause I never know who I’ll see down the road — guys from that team, high-ceiling guys on that team. I might see a couple of those guys in the future wherever I'm at, so just building a bond with everyone. It was a great experience.
PI: What was the most memorable moment of the trip?
CN: There's been so many things like we created a lot of memories (laughs). Like going outside, seeing other people from Spain, meeting other guys from other teams. You know, just having fun with those guys. I feel like I can't really take one moment from that experience and tell you about it 'cause it's like so many things combined. It's just a memory. It's hard to explain a feeling of memory. I kind of think of Spain as a memory, you know so it's hard to kind of give you a specific answer.
PI: What have you been looking to showcase to coaches on the court?
CN: I feel like the main thing is my versatility. One college coach might recruit me as a five-man that runs the floor, but another coach might recruit me as a three that handles and shoots it, like a tall three, a dynamic wing, a modern four, a jumbo three, or a small-ball five. To be honest, playing my game and college coaches kind of take what it is from it. You know what I'm saying? I don't really feel like I have a position. I feel like I'm just positionless. I kind of fall into like the unicorn category where I don’t have a position, but you could play me at multiple positions. You could play me with multiple actions. Play me as a lob threat or handle off the pick-and-roll or be the one setting the screen. I can do a post hook, but I can also shoot a step-back three. That's kind of the fun part about my game.
PI: What is your recruitment update?
CN: The latest schools that have contacted me are Nebraska, South Carolina, Utah, Portland, and Illinois, which offered me last month. I also have offers from Creighton, Mississippi State, Eastern Michigan, Washington State, Pitt, TCU, Santa Clara, and a couple others.
PI: Did you have a dream school growing up?
CN: I've always liked the blue bloods. Of course it's cool to say I’m going to a blue blood or it’s cool to say I'm going to Duke or Kentucky, but there's no specific school. It's just about the situation for me. For me, I really care about what situation is best for me. Am I going to a school and being the ninth man or am I going to a school and they're prioritizing me or highlighting me as one of the main guys? That's kind of what it is for me. Just getting what I need from that experience, building relationships to get to my end goal.
PI: Which college coach would you say you’ve formed the closest relationship with and why?
CN: I feel like the coaches out there at TCU. I feel like I'm really close with the assistant coach from TCU. He is from the same place where I'm from. I feel like just that alone kind of tells a lot, but just building that relationship. He's the first guy that ever took a look at me. He’s the first guy that ever offered me and built that relationship ever since two summers ago. I'm actually planning on visiting there just to kind of see what it's like down there and how the campus is. Like I said, that experience. I mean, just getting the experience of taking a visit, meeting and talking to the head coach.
PI: There are a lot more post-grad options available these days with G League Ignite, OTE, and NBL, among others. Have you and your family done much research into those opportunities?
CN: I've heard from the Overtime Elite pathway. I've heard people talk to me about that, you know, potentially doing it, but I'm not sure yet. I've heard about the G League. I’m still open to all options, but I’m focused on continuing to develop my game.
PI: What are your biggest interests outside of basketball?
CN: Just being with my guys all the time. Whatever it is…seeing my guys, going to their house or just shooting hoops with them, doing relaxing stuff, playing video games. Whatever it is, just being with my guys. I just have a really tight bond with my guys ever since grade six. Just being really close with my people, you know, building that relationship, building that bond.
PI: Who are your favorite music artists?
CN: I mean, of course, I'm from Toronto, so I like Drake a lot. I also like guys like NBA YoungBoy, Lil Durk, you know what I mean? I don’t really have a favorite one. I listen to a wide variety of guys, but I’ll tell you I like Drake a lot. I like Lil Baby, just like your typical artists.
PI: Do you have a favorite Drake album or song?
CN: Let me think. I like Gold Roses with Drake. I like Emotionless with Drake. From Time with Jhené Aiko and Drake. You know, I like a lot of that chill Drake. I just love the older Drake albums.
PI: You have one hashtag to describe yourself. What is it?
CN: #Hooper. Basketball is my passion and it's what I love to do.
PI: If you were stuck forever on a deserted island and had all the food, water, and shelter you needed — what three personal items would you bring?
CN: Ok, I can bring a nurse that knows how to do doctor things like treating diseases. If I get a disease or something on a deserted island, 'cause you don't really know what's on the deserted island. So having a nurse that has the experience of treating people and having that first aid kit with them all the time. I mean just being healthy 'cause, being on a deserted island, if I have food and water, I should be healthy. ‘Cause as much food and water as I drink is just being healthy. So having a nurse. I thought of having a basketball court with a ball. Just get my shots up. I'm always working on my game. If I'm on a deserted island or what, I'm always working on my game. Another thing would be my family. If I could see my family: my dad, my mom, sister. Just having people to kick it with, having people to talk to and all that.
PI: Who’s someone you really look up to?
CN: As a role model, definitely my dad. My dad, as a kid he grew up with old parents, and he did everything. He kind of experienced so much that he can help me throughout my career and throughout what I need to do. So just having my dad there as the role model. You know, if I have a question, I can ask him. If I need something, I talk to him. I'll call my dad first. Just having my dad there to help me and guide me through basketball. Whatever the case is, just keeping me safe, putting food on the table for me.
PI: What’s your biggest pet peeve?
CN: The first pet peeve I think of is like a kid yelling at his mom. A kid yelling at his parents, like he's being spoiled and all that. I don't really like it. When I see that, it kind of makes me annoyed like that. That's the first thing I think of. When I hear the word annoying, I think of just ungratefulness, you know what I mean? It just annoys me 'cause I know there's people like that in the world, but I just try to not put myself in that circle, you know? I feel like that's my biggest pet peeve.
PI: Are you an introvert or extrovert?
CN: It depends. I feel like I'm both. I'm more of an extrovert, but when I'm on my relaxing time, when I just get back from a practice or from a game and I'm really tired, I kinda become like an introvert. When I'm resting, I don't really want to talk to people. I just want to relax. But right now I just feel like an extrovert, just talking to people. Talking to friends, I feel like an extrovert always sharing my thoughts, telling jokes and all that.
PI: Talk about a time or story in your life that you feel has really shaped who you are today.
CN: I think what really shaped me was the way I act and kind of the way I go about things. I think a lot of people are doubting me. A lot of people like doubting me from a young age, because like I told you, I was always tall. I was always tall and you can't really teach height. So when people don't really have that height, they try to sit there and say, “oh, if I had your height, I would do this and that and and you're tall for nothing” like that. So it kind of shaped my character. It kind of built my character like character development, just having a lot of people that doubted me from a young age. And of course, just training all the time and being around high level guys. This kind of builds my personality, how I act and all that stuff.
PI: What is something that most people have no idea about you?
CN: Oh, I'm actually good at soccer. That's something that no one knows about me — and a lot of people think I'm just Canadian. I'm Canadian and Romanian. Like my background is Romanian 'cause both my parents are from Romania. They came from Romania. I was just born and raised in Canada, but I kind of claim to be Canadian-Romanian. I’m actually a good goalkeeper in soccer. If I actually kept playing soccer, I would have been like a pro goalkeeper.
PI: Would you be interested in suiting up for the Romanian National Team?
CN: I have talked to my dad about that, actually. You know, if the opportunity is there and it's a good situation and I talk to the coach a lot. Like why not, right? Representing one of my countries, you know? I have the passport and citizenship. It's just a matter of whether my age group is available and if it's the right situation, then there's nothing wrong with it.
PI: What is your dream NIL deal and why?
CN: Yeah, I haven't really thought so much about that, but maybe I’d look into fashion, if that’s a thing. I would still need to look into it more.
PI: What was your biggest takeaway from participating in the Basketball Without Borders (BWB) Global Camp?
CN: I’d say the main thing was the experience. Being blessed with an opportunity to showcase what I can do in front of many of the right people. Taking advice and knowledge from the coaches and NBA players that were there was big. Just being able to measure my game out on that scale is great.
PI: Was there any particular player that impressed you at BWB?
CN: There wasn’t anyone in particular. Everyone had a skill set with much potential to do great, which is why this camp was really good.
PI: Besides the NBA, where do you see yourself in five years?
CN: If it’s not basketball, I hadn’t really thought of a job yet, but something in the English field, something in public speaking or motivational speaking. I can definitely see myself doing something in the talking field and the writing field. For the kids, like a lot of people think because it's so hard to make the NBA, right? Like a lot of NBA players will tell you, it's really just dedication and separating yourself from other people. It's not like a crazy, difficult thing to go to the NBA. Yes, there are a certain number of guys in the league right now, whatever it is, but it's more about separating yourself from other guys. It's not as complicated as it seems. It's just do the work and see where it takes you, you know? So that's kind of like that motivational thing that I'm talking about.
PI: Name four words that best describe you.
CN: Confident, chill, genuine and ambitious. Those words best describe myself.
PI: At the end of the day, what do you hope to be remembered for?
CN: You know, I'm trying to be a Canadian legend. So when you think of Canadian basketball, you think of Steve Nash. You think of guys like Andrew Wiggins. I think soon it's going to be Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. Maybe even Shaedon Sharpe, soon — guys like that. You know, coming up in the scene, I’m striving to be remembered as a Canadian legend. I'm trying to be in that field and I think it's really realistic with my physical attributes, my dimensions and my skill set, like we talked about. I think I'm going to be one of the greatest Canadians to ever play basketball and that's kind of what I'm holding myself to. Of course, like to play in the NBA, get that second contract. However many years it takes, I'm gonna play and that's kind of what I'm devoted to right now. Just playing in the NBA and that's really what my mindset is.