Sophomore center Reed Nikko emerged as one of the few positives in Missouri’s blowout loss to Utah on Thursday night, going board-for-board against a senior-heavy Utes frontcourt.
Nikko played 21 minutes, mainly due to freshman Jeremiah Tilmon’s foul trouble, and finished the game with nine rebounds and eight points on 67 percent shooting.
On Monday, Nikko filled in for Tilmon again in the team’s win over Wagner and had with eight points, eight rebounds and three blocks.
MU coach Cuonzo Martin said Nikko’s early success this season has come from his ability to stay within his role and not try to do too much.
“When he goes into the game, he knows he’s a center, no matter what,” Martin said after the team’s loss to Utah. “He understands every day. Reed knows his assignments every time. He knows where he’s supposed to be. He practices the same things every day. That helps him in his preparation.
“It sounds like a simple thing, but it’s a big deal when you know what you’re supposed to do every time down no matter what’s going on and who's on the floor.”
The 6-foot-10 sophomore Nikko was signed by former coach Kim Anderson and missed a significant amount of summer workouts before his freshman season as he recovered from hip surgery.
Nikko said his freshman season was weighed down a little bit by his hip as he got acclimated but added it’s a new season and that the injury is behind him.
“I’m just ready when my number is called,” he said. “I’m here to do my job just like every guy on the team. I’m just here to fill my role.”
Through the first three games Nikko is averaging 5.3 points and 5.7 rebounds per game. He’s tied for the team lead in rebounds with junior Kevin Puryear and freshman Jontay Porter.
Against Utah, Nikko held his own against Utes forwards David Collette and Donnie Tillman, who are consistent double-double threats. Multiple times when Missouri threw it down to Nikko, he outmuscled multiple players to put points on the board.
“Reed’s a worker,” graduate transfer guard Kassius Robertson said. “He’s a big body down low. He does a good job with the ball screens. Once you dish it down to him he’s going to try and finish it.”
Nikko looks to be a regular part of Martin’s rotation going forward given his strong play and Tilmon’s foul trouble, which has been an issue for a while.
With the offense needing all the contributions it can get in the absence of freshman Michael Porter Jr., Puryear said the Minnesota native can’t have an off night anytime soon.
“He’s giving us great minutes off the bench,” Puryear said. “Playing well, high level of confidence. Scoring, rebounding, just being extremely active. Hopefully we continue to get them from him.”
▪ Martin said freshman Blake Harris is fine after leaving Thursday’s game after a collision.
Harris, who exited Monday’s game because of a leg injury, left Thursday’s game after Martin said he got hit in the face and was bleeding from the mouth. He’s expected to play Monday against Emporia State.
▪ Missouri’s two alumni in the NBA are off to good starts with their respective teams.
Veteran DeMarre Carroll is averaging 13.5 points and 6.6 rebounds per game in his first season with the Brooklyn Nets. Carroll missed a lot of time with the Toronto Raptors last season due to injury.
Now in his fourth year with the Los Angeles Lakers, guard Jordan Clarkson is averaging 15.1 points per game coming off the bench. Clarkson was a full-time starter his second year with the team and has become more of a full-time reserve over the last two seasons.