Niles North's Nix proves his case

Niles North's Nix proves his case
March 7, 2013, 1:15 pm
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Niles North's Malachi Nix wouldn't be human if he wasn't miffed after he picked up a copy of the Chicago Sun-Times and noticed he hadn't been selected as one of 20 players on the All-Chicago Area basketball team.

So an hour after scoring 18 points in Niles North's 45-44 victory over top-seeded Maine South in the Class 4A sectional semifinal at Glenbrook North, the 5-foot-7 senior guard talked about the past, present and future while consuming a celebratory post-game meal of scrambled eggs, bacon, hash browns and cheese.

Why a breakfast skillet at close to midnight? "I just had a craving for it. It was either this or Angus burgers. I wanted the eggs," he said.

Nix, the leading scorer in Niles North history knows what he wants. Despite his size, he wants to play at the Division I level. Chicago State has offered and he is talking to Northern Illinois, Southern Illinois-Edwardsville and Wisconsin-Green Bay. But he might have to settle for North Central, Augustana, Grand Valley State, Wayne State or Carthage.

He also wanted to be named to the All-Chicago Area team. "I felt I should have been on it. I earned it. Yes, I was surprised that I wasn't picked. People said I would be picked," he said.

"But I'm not too upset. I used it as motivation. We're still winning and having a good season. All those players who made it are really good and will be good at the next level. I can't be too bitter."

Nix found out he didn't make the All-Area team on the bus ride to the regional championship game against Loyola. He scored 30 of his 39 points in the second half as Niles North won its third regional title in a row.

"I was in a zone, making shots," Nix said. "The coach [Glenn Olson] and my teammates said to keep shooting. I made five three-point shots. They said I didn't miss a shot in the second half. I felt I could make every shot. The basket looked like an ocean and I could throw rocks in it. That was very satisfying; maybe the best game of my career."

Motivation has been a driving force in Nix's performance since the season began. Because of his size, Division I coaches are reluctant to recruit him. He doesn't get the respect he would command if he was 6-foot-2 or taller. And it doesn't help that he plays for a program that has won only one sectional title in the Skokie school's history.

"I always play with a chip on my shoulder. It gives me motivation," Nix said. "Every night, I feel I have to prove something to some people. Some people don't think I can play at the Division I level. I want to let them know I can play with Division I players. People don't think I can play and I have to show them."

Winning is one way to do it. Niles North is 27-4 -- the best record in school history -- and will meet Niles Notre Dame or New Trier in the sectional final on Friday night. The Vikings lost to Notre Dame in the final of the Wheeling Hardwood Classic in December.

"We are where I thought we would be," Nix said. "We had high expectations from last year. It doesn't surprise me. The players come to work every day and work hard. It pays off. We stay in the gym. We have no choice but to become better players. Everyone has stepped up. Even if we don't have practice on one day or Sunday, we get together and play somewhere."

Nix has been a key factor in Niles North's recent surge. As a sophomore, he played on the school's first sectional champion. The Vikings finished 24-7 but lost to Warren in the super sectional. Last year, they were 21-9 but lost to Evanston in the sectional final.

Niles North is making its postseason run without one of its most talented players. Although Lorenzo Dillard wasn't a starter, he was an important cog in the Vikings' success. He averaged 12 points per game and was interchangeable with Nix at the point guard position. But he was dismissed from the squad after being charged with domestic battery on January 27.

"He was a very valuable player. He helped us in various ways, on offense and defense," Nix said. "But we're a team, a very confident team. We feel no matter who is with us, as long as we stick to our defensive principles, we can win the game."

And so it was against Maine South on Wednesday night. On Feburary 20, Niles North lost to Maine South 64-61 in double overtime. Niles North avenged that setback as Nix and B.J. Beckford each scored 18 points and Billy Voitik converted the second of two free throws with 2.4 seconds remaining to spell the difference.

"We are a very confident team. If we play with high energy and passionate defense, we can play with anyone," Nix said. "The tougher team wins. That's what we said in practice all week. They claimed they played tougher than us two weeks ago and they won. We felt we played tougher tonight and got the win.

"It wasn't pretty but you have to survive in the playoff and move on. We're going for the super sectional and state for the first time. This is my last year. It's time to do it, time to make history."

It seems as though Nix still has something to prove.