Zamal Nixon always knew he wanted to play basketball for a college far from his home state of New York.
‘It gives you the opportunity to go on and see different things. I lived in New York 18 years of my life. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen everything there is to see,’ the sophomore guard said. ‘So in college I wanted to be able to go off somewhere where I can see new things, meet new people – things like that.’
Being at UH for two years has given him a chance to do just that, and Nixon said he has developed close relationships with his teammates at Houston.
‘Everybody enjoys being around each other. It’s like one big family. We all laugh together, joke around together. I think that’s something special. I don’t think you get that at a lot of different schools,’ Nixon said.
‘When you think about it, everybody’s coming from somewhere else. If you look at our team, you got a couple of Houston kids, kids from Baltimore, people coming from everywhere. I think that’s one of the things that’s special. Even though everybody’s different, we’re still able to get along.’
Nixon was exposed to basketball at a young age because his father coached youth basketball teams in Brooklyn.’
‘A lot of kids grow up with a Fisher Price rim or something like that, but that doesn’t mean they’re going to wind up taking it seriously,’ he said. ‘When I was around 7 years old, (my dad) was coaching a team my age and I wanted to play. I wasn’t as good as the other kids at that age, but I was on the team.’
Nixon said he didn’t start developing as a player until he got to high school.
‘Toward my sophomore year, that’s when I really started to take it a little more serious because I wanted to be able to put myself in a position to go to college,’ he said. ‘I know my parents probably would’ve found a way (to send me to college) if I didn’t play basketball, but it wouldn’t have been easy for them financially, college being as expensive as it is.’
In his senior year at Boys and Girls High School, Nixon led his team, which was ranked No. 75 in the nation, to a 30-4 record. Nixon’s averages (16.3 points, 5.5 assists and 4.9 rebounds per game) were enough to get him noticed by scouts at UH.
‘ ‘I visited the campus, I met a lot of people (and) I felt real comfortable here. It was a place where I could see me being here for four years. The weather’s nice all year round ‘hellip; and I’m getting a good education here on top of all of that,’ Nixon said.
UH head coach Tom Penders’ reputation also drew Nixon to UH.
‘A lot of people back home know Coach Penders (and) know about what he’s done. They know how good he was as far as developing guards for their future,’ he said. ‘I thought his system would be pretty good for me.’
As a freshman in Penders’ system in 2007-08, Nixon played in 31 games, averaging 5.9 points a contest. He finished the season third on the team with 37 assists and shot 31.7 percent from behind the arc.
Nixon has played in 16 games off the bench for the Cougars this season. He said the team is united in its aim to reach the NCAA tournament this year.’
‘One of our goals is to get to the tournament. We’ve got a 10-game stretch left before (the) conference (tournament) starts. We could be one of those teams talked about when you go into selection Sunday,’ he said.