SDSU’s Cody Larson Is Second Chance Success Story
SDSU saw their season come to a end in Nashville on Friday night in the NIT, but Cody Larson ended his career as much more of a winner than he did when he entered the Jackrabbit program.
Larson saw his high school career end at Roosevelt High in Sioux Falls, SD amid some controversy and saw his first few years at the University of Florida accompanied by more off the court issues.
Nothing violent, more so just bad judgement and for a teenager, that doesn't mean it's justifiable, but it certainly is much more common than most want to admit.
I did dumb stuff, you reading this probably did some stupid things as a youth, but most of us weren't eventual D1 college basketball players and didn't end up on national television for it. It's the harsh reality of a 18-22 year old becoming a "amateur" public figure way too early in life.
I remember the day on my radio show, when I heard the news that Cody was returning to the state of South Dakota to play basketball for the Jackrabbits and I had obvious questions about the fit in Brookings.
Scott Nagy is a no nonsense coach. I don't need to know him personally to get that sense from seeing enough games. That in itself made me wonder why he would allow someone with judgement issues enter a program that has been known for having quality decision makers on and off the court.
Plus, when you think about what was going on at the time, SDSU was at an all time high. Nate Wolters was off to the NBA after leading the program to two NCAA Tournament appearances. Things were going so good, why risk a distraction?
Clearly being around sports and behind the scenes, I wasn't naive to the fact that the athletic department, Nagy and probably others had done their due dillagence to be comfortable with the move.
I spoke to individuals within the program immediately about what did occur in the process of bring Larson in and they all told me that indeed, lots of conversations went into the process. Those conversations and research made the athletic department, other players and the coaching staff comfortable in the decision to allow Cody to pursue a second chance with South Dakota State University.
There is something to be said too for leaving for a while from your home town and returning a few years later to a new crowd, a new enviornment around more positive influences, I believe that all to be true for Larson and his relationship with those involved at SDSU.
Seeing little action in his time at Florida, Cody emerged as a good player in the Summit League during the 2013-2014 averaging 13.1 points and 7 rebounds per game.
SDSU failed to make the NCAA Tournament coming up short in the Summit League Tournament in March of 2014, but SDSU went into the offseason with high hopes for the team and Larson individually.
That is exactly what happened in 2014-2015 as SDSU ended the regular season as co-champs of the Summit League and Larson improved his numbers some as well adding leadership. On the season he averaged 14 points, 7.1 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per game. In addition, Cody was named Summit League Defensive Player of the Year.
The Jackrabbits unfortunely fell one point short of the NCAA Tournament in 2015 losing by to North Dakota State. The NIT was eventually waiting as the Jackrabbits got the automatic bid as co-champions of their league, did upset Colorado State in the opening round, but did lose to Vanderbilt in the second round.
No player likes to see his career end on a loss, but for most, that is how the career ends. If I was Cody Larson, I surely would look at my career as a win though. A second chance turning out as good as they can.
A man continuing his education, furthering his basketball career, becoming a leader on and off the court and thriving in life when at one time most thought he would never accomplish any.
SDSU athletic director Justin Sell joined me on my radio show at the Summit League Tournament and told me "Cody has done everything we've asked of him and he has been great to be around".
Sell admitted he had concerns but reminissed about talking to Cody initially and believing him that he was truly in pursuit of a second chance and opportunity to be successful.
He went on to say he thinks the family atmosphere at SDSU has allowed for Larson's growth plus the fact that Larson has a sister who is on the SDSU volleyball team has helped even further.
It seems as if in most cases, these second chances turn out better when the supporting cast is all in on the individual and the person is just as committed themselves. Both seem to be reasons for success in this case.
I am also guessing it didn't hurt that there were naysayers, those like myself who questioned the move. That added motivation, to make sure he wasn't thought of as the talent who didn't fulfill his potential.
Fortunately, Cody made the best of it and exceeded most expectations.
The situation is not uncommon in college sports, to see a athlete shift schools because of issues on and off the court, but those stories don't always turn out like they did for Larson.
I personally wish him the best in life and am very happy for his success.
** YOU CAN EMAIL JEFF THURN AT JT@ESPN991.COM AND FOLLOW HIM ON TWITTER @JTESPN991.