By Josh Martinez | [email protected]
An eighth grade dream has come true for former Riverton High School basketball player Cody Nixon.
Nixon, who just graduated from Riverton, recently signed to play college basketball with Southwestern Oregon Community College in Coos Bay, Oregon. He follows in the footsteps of many of his family members who played collegiate sports.
But his goals don’t stop at the SWOCC.
The COVID-19 pandemic has made signing with top schools a difficult feat, as many are granting an extra year of eligibility to those who have suffered canceled or modified seasons. This led to limited roster spaces for incoming freshmen.
With that in mind, Nixon took the advice to try junior colleges in hopes of finding a Division I or II school that would want him in a few years.
Still, Nixon said he’s excited to play SWOCC not only because it can help him achieve his goals, but also because Salt Lake County native, head coach Riley Grandinetti.
“I could just tell he wanted me way more than the other schools and once I signed he was posting like crazy about it, saying ‘we’re super excited about this kid,'” Nixon said. “It just made me feel welcome.”
Achieving the signing at the SWOCC was not easy. Will Nixon, Cody’s father, said it was fun watching his son grow up.
“That’s probably the biggest thing I’m proud of, that he was, he had to work at it, but he was able to achieve his goals, especially with a crazy year with COVID,” Will Nixon said.
An athletic pedigree
Cody comes from a family of athletes.
His grandfather played basketball at Brigham Young University in Idaho, then called Ricks College. His mother, Kelly Nixon, played basketball at Snow College, while Will Nixon played baseball at BYU.
Additionally, he has several members of his extended family who played collegiate sports, including the New Orleans Saints and former BYU quarterback Taysom Hill.
“He is [Cody] definitely been surrounded by a lot of guys who have worked and know what it takes,” Will Nixon said. “He took advantage of it because he was encouraged by those guys as well.”
Although there was a wide range of athletes in his family, Cody said he naturally gravitated towards basketball. He thought he had a natural talent for it and by eighth grade he had given up other sports to focus on basketball.
In addition to playing at Riverton, Cody also competed with the Amateur Athletic Union team, the Salt Lake Rebels.
Former UNLV player Evric Gray leads the club and said Cody is a versatile player who can shoot the ball very well while focusing on defense. While primarily a shooting guard, Gray said Cody could step into the point guard role if needed.
“He’s a really good teammate, which is very important these days because a lot of kids are bad teammates,” Gray said. “That’s one of the things we love about Cody. He’s a willing passer, he’s a really good teammate and he can score the ball, so a lot of guys really enjoy being around him.
When not playing club basketball, Cody was at Riverton where he was the Silverwolves’ leading scorer in his senior year. He also averaged double-digit points in his junior year.
Cody said club and high school basketball helped him develop different aspects of his game.
In high school, he said there was a lot of structure and plans to keep play organized. Cody also said he enjoyed the team camaraderie and focus on the fundamentals.
At club the pace was faster and the focus was on the pace of the game. He also played with a lot of talented players who had similar goals to him.
“It’s kind of hard to choose between the two just because both really helped in a way,” he said.
Find the next level
While Cody set his sights on college basketball in the eighth grade, he didn’t start focusing on it until his freshman year.
He said his club team was where he got a lot of attention because he could walk past scouts during showcases. Bids did not begin until his senior year.
Will Nixon said there was interest in his son just before the COVID-19 pandemic, including from the state of Utah.
Meanwhile, Gray had moved Cody to his best team, which included four Division I athletes. With many areas closed due to the pandemic, finding showcases was tricky, but Gray said they went to states which had looser restrictions, allowing Cody to play ahead of scouts.
Also during the pandemic, Will Nixon said Cody would train with pro athletes because he knew someone who was helping train pros.
It was around this time that junior colleges began to take more interest in Cody. Will said Cody started getting advice from some of the professional athletes he knew about going with the junior college scene before moving on to a Division I or Division II school.
Grandinetti had previously played for Gray on the club scene, so there was already a connection. Grandinetti said he likes to recruit in Utah and watches southwestern Salt Lake County.
“I kinda followed Cody during his junior year, went to a few games, so he was always kind of on our radar,” he said. “In his final year, he continued to improve, and that was almost a no-brainer.”
While Will Nixon said he and his wife hope Cody stays close to home, they’re both happy he can have an out-of-state experience.
“We thought it was a really good experience for us to be away from home,” he said. “As hard as it is for parents, I think for kids it’s a great deal.”
Grandinetti said he likes Cody’s length, especially for the position he’s in, and thinks he’ll fit in the fast SWOCC races.
Cody has the ability to change momentum, Grandinetti said, due to his shooting skills and defensive abilities.
“Off the pitch, he comes from a very good family,” he said. “You can tell they just care about him and want him to succeed. We’re trying to create a family atmosphere here too with the small town we’re in. So I’m really looking forward to having a good boy on campus too.
Since Grandinetti recruited from Utah, there are local athletes Cody can play with, including Herriman High School alumnus Kase Peterson.
When it comes to goals, Cody has set high expectations. He hopes to spend a year at the SWOCC and eventually attract interest from Division I or II schools, but he is willing to spend two years at the school.
After that, he hasn’t quite decided, but he has friends who play abroad and has considered this route.
But for now, Cody will focus on the SWOCC, not only for his basketball game, but also for his schooling.
“Academics was a big thing for me all through high school, and it’s still a big thing because everyone in my family graduated college,” he said. “I’ve seen what college can do for you. So, I just want to graduate and open my opportunities.