Corvallis senior Tylor Nixon had some big decisions to make earlier this week.
He said Jan. 1 is the deadline for his commitment to one of the college baseball programs that’s been courting him. As a star short-stop on the two-time state/regional/district championship Bitterroot Red Sox team, Nixon knows the dedication it takes to win in a sport he loves. He’s determined to wrap his high school career with a third round of domination this spring.
“Baseball is the best sport in the world,” he said. “My dad played professionally and got me going at a young age. I’ve always enjoyed playing very much. … We’ll have a new head coach, Jason Goligoski, this year but he’s been coaching us for a long time so the transition will be easy. We’ve got a lot of potential – a lot of young guys who can step up and take on those big roles left by graduating seniors last year.”
But in the meantime, Nixon is the co-captain of the Corvallis boys’ basketball team and is resolved to lead his teammates on the court to a successful season this winter.
“Basketball is a sport I have fun with,” he said. “I love playing with my friends on the team and staying conditioned. We want to win for each other, for our school and for the coaches because they’re working just as hard.”
Corvallis’ second-year head coach Peter O’Neil has nothing but praise for Nixon.
“He’s transitioned well as a senior leader with a lot of responsibility and is one of the better players on the team,” he said. “He’s accepted the challenge and done a great job. Everybody on the team and at school really rallies around him because he’s such a nice guy. He hasn’t had to do much to get respect from others because it was already something that was naturally there.
“When we started the season, the (varsity team) knew he would lead along with our other captain Justin (Catanach),” Coach O’Neil said. “It’s been nice to not have question marks about it because that can create some chemistry issues. We had quite a few seniors graduate last year, so (Nixon) and other younger players haven’t had as much varsity time to prepare for the responsibility. But he’s been patient with himself and with the younger guys teaching and leading them.”
Despite early losses at the tip-off tournament to Frenchtown and Polson and a loss to Hamilton at home, O’Neil said the team is optimistic over the holiday break and riding on forward momentum after a key win against valley-rival Stevensville on Dec. 20.
“We’ve spent time during the break tweaking some things that need to be fixed,” O’Neil said. “Our turnovers have been an issue and we’ve had some mental breakdowns on offense. But coming into the new year, our goal remains to be a better team in as many ways as we can. We want to keep improving throughout the year so that by the divisional tournament, we’ll be playing our best basketball.”
O’Neil said he’s seen a lot of maturity and improvement from Nixon so far.
“I know stats may not show everything that he does for us,” O’Neil said. “He’s averaging about 13 points, but has found ways to help us as a rebounder. His defense has really improved because he’s staying out of foul trouble. Tylor has completely changed his mindset defensively. He’s so athletic and his speed is so useful, but this year, he’s figured it out how to be a lot smarter defensively. We’ve been able to put him on some of the really good guards and not worry about him getting into foul trouble because of it. As far as running the ball and leading our offense, he’s done a really a good job taking on that challenge.”
Nixon finds parallels between his roles as short-stop in baseball and point guard in basketball, “Both are athletic positions,” he said. “Both require you to always be in tune for the game and mentally ready for whatever is coming at you because it’s moving quick and fast. For me, I stay conditioned but the biggest challenge is mental. I have to really be thinking of what I’m going to be doing next and how I’m going to do it.”
Nixon is a solid student athlete, “My parents and teachers hold me to a pretty high standard in the classroom,” he said. “I’m always working to meet those expectations and do my best. … My parents always tell me to ‘Remember your name and remember who you are.’ They encourage me to have fun and give 100 percent.”
And as for his new year’s resolutions, “I want to keep having fun and play basketball as long as possible and be ready when baseball starts. My new goals are the same as always – to keep getting better with everything I do.”
Corvallis boy’s basketball will play the next two games on the road this week in Thompson Falls and Frenchtown. The next home game is Jan. 7 against Hellgate.