MEN’S BASKETBALL: Nixon leading by example on, off court
Zamal Nixon is no stranger to playing basketball in tradition-rich settings.
The junior hails from Brooklyn, N.Y,, home to some of the nation’s greatest playground legends. This is also where’ he learned the art that James Naismith first called basketball.
Nixon’s father’ showed Nixon’ the ropes of basketball at a young age, and he tweaked those skills on the playgrounds of Brooklyn.
‘The park is where I learned a lot of my game from,’ Nixon said. ‘Not even watching TV, but watching older guys play.’
Nixon would eventually trade those parks for UH. It was almost a natural choice, as the Cougars have a rich history of basketball greatness, highlighted by the Phi Slama Jama era.
Although he was recruited by Conference USA rival Tulane, Fairfield University, Virgina Commonwealth and Wichita State, Nixon chose to head south to essentially get away from home but still’ enjoy’ a ‘big-city’ lifestyle.
‘This whole city was something that you couldn’t get at a Wichita State,’ Nixon said. ‘In Houston, there’s always something to do.’
But to Nixon, there is still a major difference between Houston and New York City: the transportation system, or lack thereof.
‘In New York, you can get anywhere you want,’ Nixon said of the abundance of options he left behind. ‘But in Houston, you definitely have to have a car.’
On the court, Nixon has proven that he needs no car to be mobile, similar to several point guards in the NBA.
‘I watch all the games that come on TV. You can learn a lot from guys like Chris Paul and Deron Williams,’ Nixon said.
Nixon has learned a lot since arriving at UH in 2007. During his freshman year,’ he had to adjust to the change of game speed from the high school level to the college level.
‘As a freshman coming out of high school, you really don’t know what it takes to be successful at this level,’ Nixon said.
Nixon now knows what it takes, even if it takes a little extra work.
‘Basketball is all day, every day, 24-7,’ Nixon said. ‘If I have a break in between my classes, I always try to get in the gym and work on my shot. Before you know it, 3 o’clock rolls around and then it’s practice.’
Hard work has paid off, as Nixon started the final 13 games of the 2008 season.
In the regular season finale against SMU, Nixon had a career performance, scoring 21 points, all on 3-pointers, while dishing out seven assists with only one turnover. In UH’s two C-USA tournament wins, Nixon turned in performances of 17 points, five assists and no turnovers against SMU, as well as 15 points against UTEP.
With the losses of Marcus Cousin and Qa’rraan Calhoun, the team will be noticeably smaller this year, but a lot quicker, Nixon said. As the point guard,’ he is expected’ to step up and carry over the momentum he gained from’ the end of’ last season.
‘This year, I have to take more of a leadership role,’ Nixon said.
This approach will not only serve him well on the court, but off it as well. On top of basketball and school, Nixon has a 10-month-old daughter to raise.
‘I want to be a father that is in their child’s life,’ Nixon said. ‘So many people don’t grow up with both of their parents ‘hellip; I’m just trying to do the right thing.’
No matter where Nixon goes, his child will always remind him of where he comes from. Her name: Brooklyn.