Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Senior Spotlight Part 1

In the following analysis, we examine Houston's senior point guard Zamal Nixon.

After watching Houston's point guard Zamal Nixon play this season, several trends become evident. First, it is clear that he has accepted his role as a lead guard and initiator of the Cougar offense. Nixon is receiving nearly double the minutes that he had received a season ago, and it has shown in his overall productivity. In terms of passing, Nixon does not possess spectacular court vision that might alter the course of the game. However, he has an excellent understanding of his offensive sets and is ready and willing to execute them. Nixon often envisions plays two or three passes ahead, and thus some of his solid vision is not wholly reflected in his statistical totals. Moreover, he has a solid understanding of post entry passing, which is so crucial for his squad given the improvements Maurice McNeil has made coming into this year. Further, Nixon has a blindingly quick first step, which he uses to keep defenses off balance and attack the basket. He has been at his best this season when he drives to the rim and initiates contact for himself or dishes out to open perimeter shooters. If he can exploit this ability more often, he will quickly become the Cougars' most valuable player. This is especially necessary because their leading scorer Adam Brown has a poor handle and is more of a set shooter.

On the defensive end, Nixon is one of the most underrated defenders in the country. He gets extremely low in his stance and has very quick hands, as evinced by his 2.4 steals per game. Not only can Nixon get in the passing lanes on occasion, but he is also willing to stand in and take a charge. Overall, Nixon is undoubtedly the defensive leader of his squad- as his tenacity and willingness to sacrifice his body have provided Houston with numerous additional possessions.

While his defense is one of the trademarks of his game, it should be noted that his aggressiveness on this end of the floor has somewhat limited his offensive production. There have been countless possessions where Nixon has not received much lift on his three point attempts late in the game. Most of these shots fall short, partially accounting for why he shoots a paltry 26% from beyond the arc. Thus, it can be said that he needs to work on his endurance in the offseason, especially considering how many additional minutes he has played this season relative to year's past. In general, Nixon must improve upon his perimeter shooting if he wants to receive a professional contract. He should be able to increase these percentages dramatically given the fact that he has shown a nice form at the free throw line, where he has shot over 90% this season. It should also be noted that Zamal's tendencies are very predictable when scouted correctly, as he drives left the vast majority of the time. He needs to vary the direction of his drives to the basket if he wants to throw more structured defenses off balance.

Overall, Zamal Nixon possesses the intangibles to really improve upon his current skillset. He must spend more time watching film in order to critically examine how he can exploit his superior first step and shooting form. He needs to make adjustments relatively soon, or his Houston team will hover around .500 for the remainder of the season. Despite being a senior, it is clear that Nixon still has room to grow as a floor general from a professional perspective. While he may be raw at this point, Zamal should receive a contract with a D League team next year, and may earn some extended looks at Portsmouth Camp if he can turn around Houston's fortunes in conference play. This is certainly possible given how he has adjusted to his role so far.

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