When Cuonzo Martin took over the Missouri program in 2017, he took over a roster that was lacking in size. The solution was to bring in three freshman commits that measured over 6’10”, quickly turning the Tigers into the country’s 35th tallest roster.
However, squeezing minutes from that newfound height proved more difficult than Martin may have imagined. With the injury to Michael Porter Jr. and foul troubles from both Jontay Porter and Jeremiah Tilmon, Martin was forced to turn the only player he inherited taller than 6’8”: sophomore Reed Nikko.
While Nikko didn’t see his time cut too much, he still saw fewer minutes per game than in his freshman year. He did, however, manage to get into every game Missouri played while maintaining his per game averages... give or take a few decimal points.
#14 Reed Nikko
6'10" 250 lbs
Nikko got double-digit minutes in 10 games, and without him, a thin Missouri roster would’ve been hamstrung for size when Tilmon and Jontay had a hard time staying on the floor.
Due to Jontay and Tilmon’s foul troubles, Nikko ended up filling a bigger role than some of us may have thought. How did he answer the call?
Sam Snelling: Nikko isn’t the most athletic or flexible of post players, but he’s an excellent defensive rebounder and decent rim protector which is all you really need in a third or fourth big man. At this point, we know what you can and cannot expect from Nikko, but he can continue to improve his ball-handling around the rim and learn the finish around athletic shot blockers instead of trying to go through them. You can see how Nikko could expand his role and be even more valuable than he already is.
Matt Harris: There were tradeoffs this season for Nikko.
The sophomore big was a tad more efficient as a scorer, seeing his true shooting improve by nine percentage points during SEC play, and at his best as a roll man or on putbacks. Throwing the ball to Nikko on the block, however, typically had binary outcomes: a turnover or a foul drawn on an opposing big. On the defensive end, his overall block percentage (8.7) improved, and he didn’t sacrifice rebounding for the sake of rim protection.
Nikko’s been average athletically since he was a prep prospect, and that was before hip surgeries. And his game is very much retro to a time when twin-post systems reigned supreme. Developing a couple post moves, a couple of counters and improving his finishing at the rim would buy him more minutes. That being said, he supplies commodities that are crucial for any Cuonzo Martin team: rebounding and steady defense. After a season where he triaged the rotation in response Jeremiah Tilmon’s foul-prone ways, he may also have earned Martin’s trust.
Tashan Reed: Reed NIkko was solid this year. He really needs to work on his hands - both catching the ball and finishing around the rim - but he was unexpectedly thrown into several high-pressure situations and reacted well. While Jontay Porter and Jeremiah Tilmon frustrated fans with their tendency to get into foul trouble, Nikko held his own.
For starters, he avoided fouling much at all himself. He didn’t foul out all year and picked up four fouls just twice. He seemed to always be aware of the situation he was in, but he didn’t play scared. Nikko fought for rebounds, dove on the ground for loose balls and nearly averaged a block per game. He’ll need better conditioning for his increased role if Porter follows through with his decision to enter the draft, but other than that, I don’t see NIkko having an issue answering the call once again in 2018.
Josh Matejka: Reed Nikko was likely asked to do more than Cuonzo Martin would have hoped this year, but he filled the same role CVL did: don’t kill the team on either end of the floor. Unlike VanLeer, Nikko was more valuable on offense than defense, but he’s an effective rebounder and does a nice job altering shots down low.
My only complaint is that it would’ve been nice to see Nikko take advantage on more of the opportunities he was given. He attracted a lot of contact down low but was one of the team’s worst shooters from the charity stripe. And it seemed like he often hesitated to go strong to the basket. Nikko may not be the quickest guy on the floor, but he’s always going to be one of the biggest, and it’s unfortunate he didn’t capitalize on that strength more. He filled in admirably when the freshmen couldn’t stay on the floor, so let’s hope he can get a little more polish on his offensive game moving forward.
Chris Bohkay: With Nikko’s limited ability - mostly stemming from multiple surgeries to his hips - he fared OK. His rebounding and block numbers are low for a big man, so that’s got to pick up if he wants to be a contributing member of this team. With Jontay potentially out the door with his brother, the minutes will be there for Nikko, as we still don’t know what kind of contribution Mitchell Smith will be capable of making. What he does in those minutes is important. We need to see more boards, and more easy put backs with his back to the basket. Otherwise, you can envision the Tigers going smaller most of the time. Finally, in a blow out, take a three pointer Reed; I think we’d all enjoy seeing that next season.
Catch up on the rest of our postseason player analysis pieces: