Andrew Nicholson is far from the first player in NBA history to have experienced defeat more often as a rookie than he did during four years in college.

The Orlando Magic were pleased with the mental toughness their first-round draft pick of a year ago showed during the occasional ups and many downs of a 20-62 season. It’s Nicholson’s physical toughness which will be more of an issue in the months ahead.

The 6-foot-9, 250-pound power forward from St. Bonaventure has relied on basketball smarts more than brute strength to get to where he is. While the Magic aren’t asking him to abandon the brains-above-brawn approach, he’s sure to continue being one of the top priorities of strength and conditioning coach Joe Rogowski.

“We’re just going to keep doing what we’re doing, probably pick it up a little bit in the summertime in the weight room,” said Nicholson, who recorded two double-doubles during a three-week stretch in February but was frequently outmuscled on the boards.

The lumps that he took along the way weren’t confined to games that the Magic lost. In a win over Indiana, Nicholson tied a dubious record by picking up six fouls in the fourth quarter. Two of them came when he and the Pacers’ Tyler Hansbrough, who has gotten underneath the skin of the Miami Heat's Chris Andersen during the Eastern Conference finals, were called for double fouls in a span of 65 seconds.

“He is learning about the NBA,” Magic coach Jacque Vaughn said afterward of Nicholson. “I can't teach those lessons in practice. He's learning how to play versus an extremely physical guy, learning how to fight adversity and how to play with referees on the floor, how to play with poise.”

But there were breakthrough moments, particularly during the Magic’s 12-13 start. He gave them 19 points and nine rebounds off the bench in a victory at Phoenix, and that was followed two games later by 15 points and four blocks against the Golden State Warriors.