Dalton Nixon is becoming a key piece of the BYU men’s basketball puzzle

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Brigham Young Cougars forward Dalton Nixon (33) keeps the ball in play as BYU takes on UNLV in men's NCAA basketball at Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City on Sat. Dec. 7, 2019.

ProvoBYU coach Mark Pope strongly believes that when a player gives their whole heart and soul to the game, it will reward you. Not very many players are willing to do that — to take away their agendas and give everything they have to the game.

But Dalton Nixon is one of those players — and it led him to a career-best 17-point performance against UNLV on Saturday.

“You know what Dalton had to do to get a career high? He had to give up his starting spot and just give that last thing he’s got going right now to this game,” Pope said. “There’s not many players who are willing to do it. There’s not many teams who are fortunate enough to have a guy that has a heart and a winning attitude to do it, but he’s just special.”

When Yoeli Childs got served a nine-game suspension from the NCAA due to a paperwork snafu after the 6-foot-8 forward decided to withdraw from the NBA draft and return to BYU, Pope looked to Kolby Lee and Nixon to fill the void.

And the pair succeeded.

But when Childs became available again, it was Nixon who found himself on the bench. However, he didn't have any problem with the move.

“Yoeli is a top-50 player in the country,” Nixon said. “Being able to play on a team with him, along with all of our other guys … we’re all in for each other. So, whatever it takes for us to win. I have the opportunity to come off the bench now and provide a spark for the team on both sides of the floor. That’s the role I find myself in and I’m embracing it.”

Nixon came into BYU as a legacy player. Because his father, Kevin, played for the Cougars from 1991-93, the Orem native grew up a huge BYU fan.

However, the forward got attention beyond BYU as well. While at Orem High School, Nixon was also being recruited by Arizona State, Creighton, Hawaii, San Diego, San Francisco, Utah, Utah State and Weber State.

The attention from the other programs did interest Nixon, but ultimately he went with the decision he waited for his entire life.

“I took a few visits to some other schools, but when it really came down to it, I knew (BYU) was where I wanted to be,” Nixon said. “So, I committed my sophomore year of high school. And ever since then I've just been all in with this program.”

Nixon first came to BYU in 2014 and, after playing his freshman season, went to serve his church mission in Boston.

Shortly after returning from his mission in spring 2017, Nixon jumped right back in with the Cougars and was building off his stats from two years prior. But then his numbers took a dip his junior year.

Nixon believes that just comes with the sport. It’s very hard for any player to be consistent, but he also struggled to shoot the ball last year, he said.

Now, Nixon is shooting 53.6% and is 12 of 17 from behind the 3-point line. The senior is also averaging 9.2 points and 4.4 rebounds in 24.6 minutes.

“I think there’s no coach in America who wouldn’t kill to get him on their team, on any level, because he just helps you win,” Pope said. “So, that’s what helps Dalton get to a career high. He’s just playing purely to do whatever he can to help his team win. He’s playing with great confidence, but he’s earned that.”

As far as accomplishing any goals before his career is over, Nixon only has one set in mind: to make it back to the NCAA Tournament. Nixon was a freshman the last time BYU made it to the Big Dance.

“Coming back to my senior season and having a new staff has been a new opportunity for me to start fresh and to work as hard as I can — and good things will happen,” Nixon said.


At Marriott Center, Provo

Tipoff » Tuesday, 7 p.m. MT


Radio » 1BYU Radio – Sirius XM 143/89.1 FM HD2; BYU Sports Network; KSL 102.7 FM/1160 AM

Records » BYU 7-4; Nevada 7-3

All-time series » BYU leads 13-7

Last meeting » Nevada 86, BYU 70 (Nov. 6, 2018)

About BYU » The Cougars have hit 10-plus 3-point field goals in four straight games, which is a new school record for consecutive games with double-digit 3s. … While BYU shot below 50% from the field in the first five games, the Cougars have shot above 50% in five of the last six games, including each of the last four. … Yoeli Childs posted his first double-double of the season against UNLV with 13 points and 14 rebounds.

About Nevada » The Wolf Pack come in having won five straight. … Nevada posted its first triple-digit score of the season with a 100-85 road win at Air Force. … Junior Jalen Harris has scored in double figures in the last six games, including a career-high 31 points at Air Force. … Wolf Pack senior Jazz Johnson has made 37 of 77 3-pointers this season, which is second best in NCAA, and his 48.1 shooting percentage from behind the arc is 18th in the country.