Former Tiger Reed Nikko on life after graduation, watching Mizzou basketball from afar
One of the most prominent members of the Missouri men's basketball team last season has consistently followed the Tigers from afar this year.
Reed Nikko, not too far removed from wearing the black and gold, now lives in Minnesota after graduating last spring.
His final chapter as a Tiger was written for him, as the coronavirus pandemic shut down the sports world mere hours before Missouri was supposed to play Texas A&M in the opening round of the Southeastern Conference Tournament.
The Tribune's Eric Blum recently caught up with the 6-foot-10 Nikko. The full conversation can be heard on last week's episode of the Mizzou Sports Podcast.
The following conversation has been slightly edited for clarity and length:
Eric Blum: Take us back to the SEC Tournament last March. How quickly did everything change?
Reed Nikko: "The weirdest thing is when we landed in Nashville, at that time, it wasn't even an option in my mind that the game wouldn't be played. And just thinking back on how quickly you progress from 'we'll definitely play' to 'we'll play it, but we won't have fans there' to 'this is just done.' How fast that happened, it's kind of crazy. And then just how slow life has moved since then just kind of being in lockdown. It's weird to think about."
EB: What are your thoughts on this year's MU team from watching on television?
RN: "It's frustrating. It's frustrating to watch the team and you can't do anything about it. It's been a weird adjustment for me. But also, the success they've had this year, from someone who's been in that program for four years, I knew it was coming. I knew it was overdue. And just for all the guys in that program, (Jeremiah Tilmon, Mitchell Smith), all those guys, they deserve all the success they're having right now. It's just awesome to see."
EB: You and Mitchell Smith were the last two remaining players on the team recruited by Kim Anderson and his staff. How far has Smith come in his time in Columbia?
RN: "I'm proud of him, man. The growth he has had in his game and just a well-rounded player. I think people talk a lot, rightfully so, about how much Tilly's game and how much off the court, he has matured. I think you can say the same for Mitch. Mitch and I were roommates freshman year. So I've known him very well for a long time. I see his growth. I still talk to him pretty regularly. It's exciting to see the person he's becoming off the court, too."
EB: Missouri lost two games last week. What is it about the coaches and players you know in the locker room that makes you think they can turn those negatives into positives and learn from them?
RN: "I think the biggest thing knowing coach (Cuonzo) Martin is he sets the expectation for everyone in that ... everyone in that locker room knows what the expectation is. It's right on to the next one. And his thing was always, if we had a loss on the road, loss, win, draw, whatever, whenever we got back into Mizzou Arena, we'd meet, he broke it down, he'd tell us whatever and then we moved on. And then, you obviously have film sessions where you're going over mistakes or positives or whatever. You'll pick it apart a little bit more. But I think the biggest thing that will help them to draw positives is just move right on to the next thing."
EB: Next time you're in Columbia, where's your first meal going to be?
RN: "I think first up for me is probably smoked wings from D Rowe's. That's the one I've missed the most."
EB: What's the process like going from a college basketball player to not competing in sports now?
RN: "It's kind of hard for me to differentiate how much of the downtime in my life is because of not playing basketball and how much of it is because we're in a global pandemic. So that's been a weird dynamic to kind of navigate. The biggest thing for me is the first, I'd say, five months post-playing, I went through last summer still kind of considering playing overseas, ultimately decided against it. But I was very at peace with it. And when this season started, and watching Mizzou play, it kind of bit me with the bug again. It's been a pretty smooth adjustment, all things considered. I'd love to get back into basketball, whether that be coaching or whatnot."
Contact Eric Blum at email@example.com. Follow @ByEricBlum on Twitter.
Follow Mizzou basketball with the Tribune’s Tiger Extra newsletter. Sign up at columbiatribune.com/tigerextra for stories, galleries and podcasts in your inbox every Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday.