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Blansit: Eagles freshman McKnight 'should absolutely be considered' for COC POY


Adam McKnight’s case for COC Player Of the Year candidacy was wrapped up last week by his 15-point, five-rebound performance in Nixa’s victory versus Ozark and a startling statistic revealed by coach Brock Blansit.

McKnight helped the Eagles complete a fourth straight undefeated run through the COC, extending their conference winning streak to 41 games.

He was a modest 3-of-6 from the field against Ozark, but drew repeated fouls on shot attempts and finished 9-of-15 at the free-throw line. Of his five rebounds, three were offensive boards.

As the best player on the best team in the COC, McKnight would seem to stand out as one of the POY favorites, if not the favorite.

“It'd be a pretty cool achievement. Ultimately, it's not up to me,” McKnight said of his POY chances. “I feel like I did my part for the team. I rebounded and scored when I was supposed to.”

McKnight would be the first freshman COC POY going back at least 25 years.

“I think he'll be considered. Whether he wins or not, I don't know,” Nixa coach Brock Blansit said. “I think he should absolutely be considered. We won the conference again and he's a big reason why. It probably will hurt him being a freshman, although it shouldn’t.”

Joining McKnight as POY contenders, in order, are Webb City’s Barron Duda, Carthage’s Justin Ray and Republic’s Brenley Hagewood. Duda and Ray are seniors and Hagewood a junior.

Over the past three seasons, COC POY recipients were Nixa's Kael Combs in 2023, Nixa's Colin Ruffin in 2022 and Republic's Drew McMillin in 2021. Each was a senior.

In Nixa’s 84-69 win at Webb City that decided the COC race, McKnight collected 26 points and 15 rebounds, while Duda had 16 points and four rebounds.

On the season, Duda is averaging 22.8 points and 5.8 rebounds a game.

“Some guys in the conference are averaging 24-25 points a game. But Adam is the only kid in the conference averaging a double-double,” Blansit said.

Blansit added McKnight’s field-goal percentage is at 70 percent.

The only other Nixa player to finish a season shooting at a 70 percent clip or better is 2015 grad Chase Allen. He shot 73 percent as a junior and 71 percent as a senior.

McKnight missed a chance to up his field-goal percentage against Ozark in the early going, when he was a bit too strong on a dunk attempt and fired it over the rim.

Not deterred, he dunked on a similar fast-break opportunity only a few minutes later.

“Coach said, 'Make sure you finish next time,'” McKnight said. “I got the fast break and went up and tried to send a statement.”

With McKnight attacking the basket with absolute reckless aggression each and every opportunity he sees a path to the rim, Nixa fans surely hope injuries don’t slow him. He suffered a concussion against Columbia Hickman and went to the the floor against Ozark in what initially looked to be a lower leg injury. Alas, it was simply a cramp in his calf.

“You don't think about (injuries),” McKnight said. “If you go in with confidence and bring the physicality, you'll be better off.”

Up next for McKnight and Nixa (20-6) is a Class 6 District 5 first-round matchup against Ozark (11-15). Game time will be 8:30 p.m. Thursday at Glendale.

“I’ve got to keep going forward and be ready to help us make a run in Districts,” McKnight said. “We’re going for a state championship. We’re playing very well. I have full confidence in this team.”