By Scott Day
RICHMOND, Va. – Exactly four years ago, Ed Nixon was beginning his final season at Lakewood High School in St. Petersburg, Fla. (pictured, right)
The quick, athletic guard put together a senior season that saw the Spartans advance all the way to the Florida 5-A State Championship Game. He led the squad in scoring and rebounding for three straight years and earned County Player of the Year accolades during his senior year.
Needless to say, Nixon was well-known around the St. Petersburg basketball community.
On Wednesday night, the prodigal son will return when Nixon's Virginia Commonwealth University men's basketball team visits USF Sun Dome to take on the University of South Florida Bulls out of the Big East.
"I can't tell you how excited I am," Nixon said. "Most of the people that will be at the game haven't been able to see me play much since I was in high school, so it will be great to see everybody and for everybody to see me with the family that I've made at VCU."
Growing up less than 20 minutes from the USF Sun Dome, Nixon remembers waking up early with friends and spending all day outside running around the streets of St. Petersburg.
"With the weather being so nice, we would literally be outside until it was too dark to see. We played hoops, ran around, did whatever, anything to be outside," Nixon said.
On the court however, Nixon was more of a driver and slasher who could get to the basket at will. This trip to St. Petersburg, he hopes to show his followers a more mature game that has earned him a starting spot in all five of VCU games this season.
"Just like everybody who plays at this level, I've changed a lot, I'm much more mature and I have really worked on my jump shot," Nixon said. "I really am looking forward to showing everybody how much I've improved in all areas of the game."
Since leaving St. Petersburg and joining the Rams, Nixon has racked up over 500 points, 200 rebounds, 100 assists, over 70 steals and a passionate fan following. While he has been a solid addition to a balanced offensive attack for the Black & Gold, his defense is what has been his calling card.
"Ed is what you call a shut down defender. His length and quickness allow him to match up with the opposition's top scoring threat and I really can't think of a time that he hasn't had success at doing just that," Head Coach Shaka Smart said.
While his hometown is located over 800 miles away, Nixon has enjoyed his time in the "River City."
"There's no place else I'd rather be, I love my teammates, my coaches, all the people that make up my VCU family," Nixon said.
No matter how much he's loved his time with the Rams, there's nothing like going home.
"Right when I found out we were playing South Florida, I started texting people. My ticket list grows by the day and I can't wait to see everybody," Nixon said.