A few weeks ago, Oscar posted some of my observations of Willie Jackson and Frankie Hughes here.In the same vein, here are thirteen hundred or so words on fellow Mizzou signee Reed Nikko based on these three full games I found on YouTube.
Nikko (pronounced with the shortest of I's) has the best frame of any incoming freshman big since Rosburg. He has grown about an inch since Mizzou first began recruiting him, and he now stands at a full 6'10". Nikko's ability to contribute won't be inhibited by his weight, either; he has plenty of girth at over 230 pounds. There may be some work to be done to have Reed shed bad weight and gain muscle, but it will be a rare occasion that Nikko is outmatched simply in terms of size during his four years at Mizzou.
Nikko is something of a blank slate offensively. In two of the three games I watched, the opposing team just didn't have the size to offer Nikko any resistance down low. He was fronted in the post constantly, so it was difficult to get a good feel for his post up game. Nikko showed a nice ability to receive lobbed passes over the top of the defense and finish at the rim with authority. There were times, though, that Reed became very passive when fronted in the post; if he didn't get a look early in the possession, he often was content to just kind of stand on the block with his hand up. On only a few possessions did Nikko aggressively drive his man up the lane to make room for a pass over the top of the defense.
In Maple Grove's final game against LakeVille North, I got a tiny glimpse of how Nikko fares against someone his own size, the 6'9" Nathan Reuvers (class of 2017, offers from Wisconsin, Minnesota and Washington State). I say a tiny glimpse because Nikko picked up a couple of quick fouls and finished with only 6 points and 5 rebounds before ultimately fouling out with 6:13 to go (Nikko struggled with foul trouble in these three games; more on that later). The big positive I saw, though, was a major spike in Nikko's aggressiveness. Against an opponent with the size to play him straight up in the post, Nikko demanded the ball and took it right to his man, finishing with a drop step over his left shoulder. After Reed had picked up a couple of cheap fouls, he lost his edge offensively and had some trouble getting back into the game mentally.
Nikko's size makes him a decent threat on the boards, but he isn't a great rebounder at this point in his development. His fundamentals when blocking out are okay, but Nikko doesn't really bring the energy or athleticism to be a great rebounder (like, say, Willie Jackson). If a rebound comes his way, Reed has the size to grab it, but he doesn't get many boards outside of his area. Similar to Rosburg, Nikko's value on the boards will be to use his body to create space for Mizzou's rangier athletes to grab the rebounds.
Since I only saw him against one player near his size, and Reuters is more of a face up 4 at 6'9", I wasn't able to get a good look at Nikko's ability to defend the post. On only two or three possessions over the three games I watched was Nikko isolated in the post, and he seemed to hold up well; though at least one of those possessions was against a guy who was giving up at least 4 inches in height, so I don't think I saw enough to make any sweeping proclamations.
Where I did see a lot of Nikko was in defending the pick and roll. Gently put, Nikko has less than elite foot speed. To be more accurate, he's slow. Being aware of his physical limitations, though, Nikko looked good when hedging the ball-handler coming off a screen. On several occasions, Nikko anticipated the path of the guard, and jumped out to cut him off. Where he struggled; however, was when recovering to the rolling big man. Nikko has a tendancy to pick up fouls when on the move. By my count, Nikko had 13 fouls in the three games I watched (fouling out twice), and about half of those came either while defending a driving big, or rotating across the lane to help. Until he spends a bit of time with the strength and conditioning staff improving his quickness, Nikko will be vulnerable when isolated in space against more mobile SEC big men.
Nikko showed well as a shot blocker. In the three games I watched, he actually had about as many blocks as rebounds. As expected, he did collect a few blocks simply because he was so much bigger than everyone else on the floor, but he also showed some nice ability and timing to come over and block shots as a weakside defender. His most impressive defensive play came after a scrum around half court. The opposition came up with the ball with Nikko still under his own basket. An opposing guard was left free to drive down the lane with a full head of steam. Given Nikko's lack of quickness, I thought he was primed for a shooting foul. Nikko, rather, was able to keep his shoulders square, maintain his verticality as the guard jumped into his chest, and swat the ball away upon release. It was textbook shot blocking.
Nikko looks good at the free throw line (10-13 in these three games); his release is clean and quiet. Reed also showed good to great hands (the only pass he mishandled was an alley-oop that was just too high for him, and he made a couple of great grabs on bullet passes in traffic), and nice passing ability (including a beautiful touch pass in transition to get his teammate a layup). These intangibles add to Nikko's value, especially early in his career, as he has more to offer than just being a 6'10" ogre lumbering up and down the floor.
At this point in his career, Nikko can be counted on to use his soft hands and frame to catch the ball off a drive and dish and finish at the rim. Defensively, he will be most comfortable when he is able to "pick on someone his own size" and bang with a fellow giant. I like how Nikko's skill set projects to fit into Kim Anderson's system. His hands and frame should allow him to seal his man and finish with authority, and I see his passing ability and aptitude at the free throw line (which hopefully translates to a mid-range game at some point) fitting in well when he gets the ball in the high post.
Nikko is the definition of a project big. While he is raw offensively and prone to foul trouble defensively, his size and intangibles give the staff plenty to work with over the next four years. Much like Rosburg, Nikko's success in his first couple of years at Mizzou will be determined largely by his role. If he is relied on to play upwards of 20 minutes every game next year, neither Nikko, nor Mizzou will fare well. If his minutes can remain capped at about 10 per night, Nikko should be able to provide some nice cameos until he can build some strength and quickness and add a little more skill to his offensive game. Nikko's ceiling at Mizzou will be determined by his work ethic. Everything I have heard about Nikko paints him as a great kid who will work hard and be a positive influence in the locker room. If he can grind in the weight room and in the gym, Nikko has the ability to be a heck of a player in a couple of years.
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