A disappointing UMBC basketball season took a turn for the worse when center Sonique Nixon was been suspended for academic reasons.
Nixon, a 6-foot-8 senior who was suspended by the athletic department late Thursday, hopes to rejoin the Retrievers and complete his final season at UMBC. Nixon averaged 10.6 points and a team-high 8.6 rebounds in UMBC's first seven games. On a team that was making 41.2 percent of its field-goal attempts, Nixon was shooting 55.1.
UMBC takes a 1-6 record into tonight's Big South Conference opener at Liberty, having lost six straight since an opening win over Division III Washington College. The Retrievers were preseason selections to finish third in the Big South, behind Coastal Carolina and Towson State.
"Everyone else has to play better," said coach Earl Hawkins when asked what UMBC has to do to overcome Nixon's absence. "We have not played well, and we're missing a couple of people in the middle we thought we were going to have."
UMBC lost another big man last month, when the NCAA ruled that 6-9 sophomore forward Vladimir Milosevic, a native of Croatia, was ineligible because his lack of proficiency in English didn't warrant a nonstandard (untimed) administration of the SAT that was used to fulfill his eligibility requirements.
Nixon, a graduate of Oxon Hill High in Prince George's County, entered Old Dominion in 1989, but left after one season and transferred to UMBC. As a sophomore in 1991-92, he averaged 15.4 points and 9.9 rebounds, and last season he averaged 14.1 points and 8.5 rebounds. In 61 career games, Nixon is UMBC's No. 15 all-time leading scorer (864 points) and tied for No. 7 in rebounding (554).
Nixon represented UMBC and averaged 13.4 points when the Big South Conference sent an all-star team to Russia last summer.