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Nic Claxton is poised to fulfil the NBA dream his father started

Life as Charles Claxton knew it was about to change when his son, Nic, was born in April 1999.

Charles was nearing the end of his first season with the British Basketball League’s Brighton Bears and closing out his sixth year overseas. For so long, he had dedicated himself to living out his dream of a professional basketball career.

Suddenly, he had a new priority.

“I had a little bit left in me,” Charles, now 49 years old, told The Post, “but after he was born, being away and traveling and all that stuff, I said, ‘It’s time to start my second career.’ ”

In 2000, Charles officially retired from basketball and began running his own delivery business, CNC Delivery Service, in South Carolina. His other job?

Serving as Nic’s basketball coach all the way through grade school.

And he wasn’t necessarily a players’ coach either. Charles demanded so much of Nic on the court that when Nic reached Legacy Charter High School, the coaching style there was a breeze in comparison.

Charles and Nic Claxton
Charles and Nic ClaxtonCharles Claxton

“To this day, when coaches yell at him, he kind of smiles because he’s like, ‘That’s nothing!’ ” Charles said. “And I told him to stop smiling, because they might think you’re being disrespectful.”

It was a tough balance for Charles, being Nic’s dad and mentor. But Charles knew his son had so much to learn before he’d be ready to handle the harsh realities that he knew came with playing in the National Basketball Association.

Realities that he lived through.

Charles said he knew he wanted Nic, now a promising Nets rookie big man, to play basketball but didn’t want to force him. Instead, he took a more “subtle” approach.

“I had a lot of basketballs around the house, I played a little psychological game,” Charles said with a laugh. “As a young kid, he would lay on my chest and we would watch basketball together. We’ve watched a lot of basketball, and he just grew to love basketball, but it was kind of a plan.”

Nic says that even before he knew anything about hoops, he vividly remembers watching basketball on the couch with his dad, the two of them drinking chocolate milk. Soon enough, Nic developed dreams of playing in the NBA.

They weren’t unwarranted. It was around Nic’s sophomore year of high school when Charles said he realized his son had what it took to make it as a pro. Though Nic was a little underweight, he had shot up to 6-foot-11, just an inch shorter than Charles — which the elder Claxton never thought would be possible.

One time at the doctor’s office, a pre-adolescent Nic was asked if he wanted to know how tall he was going to be. According to Charles, his son was passionate about not knowing.

“He was kind of weird, he said, ‘I don’t want to know,’ ” Charles chuckled. “He’s always been tall for his age, but I didn’t think he was going to get — he looks like he’s about my height now. Every time he gets a little closer, and he likes to mess with me and stand next to me, and I’m like, ‘Get back, get back.’ ”

Living just an hour and half away from the University of Georgia — where Charles and his wife Nicole met — the Claxton family would often attend sporting events together to support the school. Though Charles admits steering his son toward basketball, he says Nic could’ve attended any college he desired. Nic opted to also attend Georgia, though, calling the decision “organic.”

After averaging just 3.9 points per game as a freshman, Nic jumped to 13 ppg in his 2018-19 sophomore campaign, also averaging 8.6 rebounds and 2.5 blocks. At that point, Charles’ confidence was cemented that his son could play in the NBA.

“I guess a lot of dads have confidence in their children, but I played the game, and I know when someone is good and they can play,” Charles said. “And I knew he could play and I knew he could play in the NBA. He was just kind of ready to move on.”

“I knew he could play and I knew he could play in the NBA” — Charles Claxton

Last summer, the Nets drafted Claxton early in the second round (31st overall), and at just 20 years old then, he quickly found himself heading toward a completely rebranded organization that would sign superstars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving shortly after the draft.

Though he has played just 15 games for Brooklyn this season, partly due to injury as well as splitting the shortened season with the team’s G-League affiliate, Nic impressed at times — scoring 15 points in 17 minutes against the 76ers on Jan. 20 and 14 points, six rebounds and three blocks versus the East-leading Bucks two nights before that. In his 15 games, he averaged 4.4 points and 2.9 rebounds in 12.5 minutes, drawing praise from his Nets teammates and coaches.

Even having played just 15 NBA games, Nic has already exceeded his father’s career game total.

Charles said he never took anything personally, getting waived from four different NBA teams in two years. But he never really knew the reason why he couldn’t stick in the NBA either.

A 7-foot center, Charles was recruited to Georgia, where he played from 1991-95, to stack up against then-LSU star Shaquille O’Neal. When the Suns drafted Claxton 50th overall after his junior season in 1994, Charles had averaged 10.6 points and seven rebounds per game through three years of college ball.

However, while sitting on a beach in his hometown of St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands, Charles decided it didn’t feel right to turn pro. He returned to Georgia for his senior year and averaged just over 12 points and eight rebounds per game. Then it was time for the NBA.

Once he was ready, though, the Suns renounced his draft rights. Charles signed a contract with the Cavaliers in October 1995, but he was waived six days later. He finally made his NBA debut in November 1995 after signing with the Celtics, for whom he played just seven minutes across three games.

He made a single basket, pulled down two rebounds and blocked one shot before the organization put him on waivers.

Charles and Nik Claxton wearing Brooklyn Nets attire
Charles and Nic Claxton wearing Brooklyn Nets attireCharles Claxton

“I don’t know if it was a numbers thing, who knows?” Charles said of getting released by the Celtics. “[The team] made a trade, and I was the last man on the totem pole.”

Charles was also under contract with the Jazz for 26 days in October 1996 before they, too, waived him.

“I did a couple more tryouts and then I was like, ‘You know what? Let me go ahead and get my career started,’ ” he said. “And it was, of course, more solid overseas and more guaranteed.”

He went on to play in Puerto Rico’s Baloncesto Superior Nacional, the Polish Basketball League and Lithuania’s Regional Basketball League in addition to the BBL, carving out a four-year professional basketball career overseas.

Nic said it was around the time he was in middle school when he first started examining his dad’s basketball career, looking him up on the internet and asking him numerous questions.

“I asked him to put me in the right direction,” Nic, now 21, told The Post. “And he did that, [he] and my mom [Nicole], they definitely did that.”

Once Charles realized his methods of guiding Nic toward basketball had worked, the next most important thing to him was to now prepare his son. Drawing from his own experiences, Charles made sure Nic knew the league was a business — and a cutthroat one at that.

Nic credits everything his dad taught him for his ability to navigate his first NBA season, which was postponed in March due to the coronavirus pandemic. Nic agreed that with his father’s experiences to learn from, he has approached his career in the NBA differently than he might have otherwise.

“He just told me, ‘It’s just a business and you need to be ready for whatever,’ ” Nic said. “People aren’t going to just hand you anything, that’s just life, sports, basketball.”

Nic and Charles spoke pretty much every day during the season. For Charles, watching his son pursue the same dream he once had has been an experience in itself. Nic is ready to have his career in the NBA, which is all Charles cares about.

“As much as Nicholas loves Brooklyn — and if it were up to him he probably would want to finish his career in Brooklyn and he’s only 21 years old — but I’ve instilled in him that you just never know,” Charles said. “You could walk in one day to practice and they say, ‘Hey, you’ve been traded,’ or, ‘We have to release you, we have to make a change.’

“So you put your heart and soul to where you are but you put say 99 or 95 percent because there’s a chance that when you come in, you won’t be there. So if you have that mindset, you’re going to be all right.”

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