Nikko hoping for strong end to Missouri career

The big man has focused on becoming more of a leader in his senior season.
Senior Reed Nikko looks to a teammate during Missouri's exhibition game against Central Missouri on Nov. 1. Photo by Assistant Photo Editor Andrew Moore

Missouri basketball has seen a lot of changes over the last three years.

Coach Kim Anderson stepped down at the end of the 2016-17 season. Less than a month later, Cuonzo Martin was hired, bringing in an entirely new coaching staff. As for the players, only one has played every year since and is still on the team as the 2019-20 season approaches.

Center Reed Nikko began his senior year having appeared in 86 consecutive games for the Tigers. As the longest-tenured player on the roster, the center is aware of his unique situation on the team.

“My biggest thing is just trying to be vocal, be a leader,” Nikko said. “Just trying to lead by example. Just trying to always be someone who will always listen to [freshmen] if they have a question, try to show them the right way to do things, and the way we do things around here.”

Nikko’s embrace of leadership has caught the attention of his teammates. Junior Jeremiah Tilmon often works with Nikko as a fellow center and has noticed his progression into more of a leader.

“He [is] always talking,” Tilmon said. “He always trying to point stuff out and be the guy early, on time. We doing stretching and stuff like that, he [is the] one trying to lead the stretches and stuff like that, so you can see that he’s showing that he trying to finish his last year off with a bang.”

On the court, Nikko has been a prototypical low post role player for most of his career. The 6-foot-10, 240 pound Minnesotan has never scored more than 12 points or grabbed more than nine rebounds in a game and has come off the bench in 91 of his 93 career games. Still, even as he enters his final collegiate year, he’s trying to expand his skill set.

“I’ve developed a lot,” he said. “I think the biggest thing is my development for this year is really the only thing I’m trying to focus on. I think this year I really need to do a good job of defending on the perimeter a little bit and just giving our team everything I can give. This is my last year of eligibility, so I’m just really trying to empty the tank and leave a legacy.”

Another focus of Nikko’s this offseason was adding more offensive versatility. Becoming more reliable taking jump shots and developing more post moves were two aspects he particularly concentrated on. The added arsenal of moves could pay off in the new smaller, faster-paced offense Martin’s put in place this year.

“We’ll see what Coach wants to do, but it definitely gives us probably more flexibility to space the floor out and also open up the paint a little bit more to operate,” Nikko said.

Regardless of what Nikko does on the floor in his senior season, Martin believes he’s already been successful in one of his goals: taking more responsibility as a leader.

“He’s one of our better leaders,” Martin said. “He’s vocal. He’s not afraid to say what needs to be said. He’s a guy that operates with a tremendous amount of integrity and accountability. He’s always on time, does the right things. He’s a guy that speaks the same language as the coaching staff. [He’s] a guy you have to have in your program.”

Edited by Emily Leiker |

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