Winners of six straight, including their last four on the road, the University of B.C. men's basketball team is ranked third in the nation and Tommy Nixon is a large part of the success.
Named MVP at the Vancouver city championships in 2009 when his Kitsilano Blue Demons won the title, Nixon is meeting expectations and having a breakout season with the Tbirds.
The second-year starter (he red-shirted for one year before earning a roster spot) is averaging 12 points a game and 26 minutes of court time. It's a dramatic step up from the previous year when he banked about two baskets a night.
"I'm always trying to make sure I get better as time goes on," he said.
Nixon, who has muscled up to a lean 215 pounds, is a versatile shooting guard who can go shoulder-to-shoulder at the post and whose athleticism and six-foot-six frame cause match-up problems for the opposition.
"It's an advantage for us as a team when we can go big or small and attack another team's weaknesses," he said.
Nixon, who turned 20 in December, hit a varsity career high two weeks ago and led UBC with 22 points and 13 rebounds over Thompson Rivers.
Head coach Kevin Hanson said afterwards that Nixon's range makes him a threatening forward who can defend all positions and rebound, shoot and score in transition.
"When you have a guy of that height being able to guard perimeter guys and the post, he is a natural Canada 3-4 position combo player," said Hanson.
Randy Coutts could see it coming. Kitsilano's head coach when Nixon was named the city's best basketball player, Coutts said, "Tommy is a natural athlete with good instincts and a great feel for the game. Tommy is a true competitor and plays with heart and passion. His sportsmanship and demeanour are second to none."
Nixon, who is close to his mother Sue and lives at home in Kitsilano, approached this season like a professional, by getting mentally prepared as well as ball handling, shooting drills and making sure he was fit by September. "You don't want to waste time by trying to get back into shape," he said.
Nixon is all about the score-and not just on the court. The kinesiology student is an accomplished violinist. Although he doesn't perform anymore, he will still "pick it up and play whenever I feel like it."
Lately he's drawn to Massenet's "The Meditation from Thais." "It's a very slow piece, a very beautiful piece and one of my mom's favourites, too."
"There are a few scores I'll just pick up and play to see if my fingers can still work that fast."
As the Province's sports reporter Howard Tsumura once so rightly wrote when Nixon was a high schooler, he plays string music like nobody else.