Columbus trip is like going home to Nixon

Times Staff Writer

Long Beach State is heading to Columbus, Ohio, for its first-round game against Tennessee in the NCAA tournament, and that means Aaron Nixon might need a new cellphone battery.

That’s because Nixon, a senior guard, grew up in Cleveland, about two hours away, and attended Columbus State Community College as a freshman. And ever since the brackets were announced Sunday, his phone has been ringing off the hook with ticket requests.

For the record:

12:00 a.m. March 14, 2007 For The Record
Los Angeles Times Wednesday March 14, 2007 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 0 inches; 33 words Type of Material: Correction
College basketball: A caption in Tuesday’s Sports section showing Long Beach State Coach Larry Reynolds identified the man next to him as associate coach Brent Bargen. Bargen left Long Beach State last year.

“Honestly, I think I got about 100 already,” Nixon said.

Nixon, the 49ers’ leading scorer and Big West Conference player of the year, said he has devised a strategy to deal with the situation.


“I just turn off my cellphone,” he said. “They’ll be mad at me, but they understand.”

But, he’s also a bit worried because he’s unsure how many requests he’ll be able to fill.

“I need to talk to coach about that,” he said. “I just keep telling everyone that I’m only getting 10, and they’re all going to my family.”

Nixon has attended games at Nationwide Arena, site of the first- and second-round games but has never played there.

“I’m trying to put it out of my mind that I’m going back home,” he said. “I just want to keep it mellow.”


When the seedings were announced Sunday, Long Beach State players cheered but some also did a double take.

“I didn’t really expect a 12,” Coach Larry Reynolds said.


It bodes well for the 49ers, because teams seeded No. 12 have a history of NCAA upsets.

“I know that a 12 or 13 usually gets the upsets, but Tennessee is going to be prepared, and that’s all I’m worried about,” Nixon said. “I actually thought we were going to get a 14 or 15 seed.”


Forward Sterling Byrd is Long Beach State’s third-leading scorer behind Nixon and Kejuan Johnson, but playing third-fiddle is not new to him.


The 6-foot-6 forward played the same role at Compton Centennial High, where Aaron Afflalo of UCLA and Gabe Pruitt of USC were teammates.

“I was the third or fourth option, but it just happened that I led the team in scoring because teams paid attention to Aaron and Gabe a little more,” Byrd said.

“Here, it’s the same thing. They pay more attention to Aaron and Kejuan, so I end up getting a few more shots than people might expect.”