Rising above


In his second season with the Jacks, Cody Larson has become a leader


Larson has been a go-to player on the men’s basketball team, but before Larson stepped onto the court in Frost Arena, his basketball future was uncertain following a short stint at Florida. 

Larson redshirted his freshman season when he and other members associated with the men’s basketball team tried to break into a car after sneaking into a bar that was already closed for the night. Larson lost his scholarship to Florida after failing to meet requirements, all this came after being suspended from Roosevelt High School for sharing prescription pain pills with a teammate.

“I’m still far from perfect,” Larson said. “The things that I’ve been through have shaped me into the person I am today. I’ve learned so many valuable lessons, not the way I’d like to learn them, but I learned them and I’ve had a great support system.”

Larson started all 32 games last season and is averaging nearly 14 points through five games this season, tied for the team lead with Deondre Parks. Larson also leads the Jackrabbits decisively in both offensive and defensive rebounds at 46 and is tied for second in steals with Parks at five a-piece.

In his 20th season at SDSU, head coach Scott Nagy said he views Larson as a leader. Zach Horstman joins Larson as the only two seniors on the team. When Nagy sat down to talk with Larson and his family in December of 2012, Nagy wanted to make sure Larson was ready to play basketball again for the right reasons, he said.

“I didn’t want to have to motivate him,” Nagy said. “I didn’t want him coming here just trying to get a scholarship and not doing the things that needed to be done, so that was the main focus for me.”

In retrospect, Larson said his behavior was a result of the pressure bearing down on him out of high school, though it doesn’t excuse his actions, he said. Larson and Nagy have a close relationship that developed quickly, said Larson.

“It’s a little bit of a curse, with his talent because he is so gifted athletically, big and strong,” Nagy said in regards to Larson’s expectations. “I thought really on his part, it took [Larson] a lot of courage to come back to [South Dakota] and kind of face the music. He’s done a great job of redeeming himself and proving to people in our state that he’s gotten himself straightened out – a straight-A-student, great basketball player and he’s been really good for us.”

For Larson, he said it’s taken him time to learn things like talking to the right people instead of channeling stress in unproductive ways. Larson has surrounded himself with familiar faces, including his sister who attends SDSU. Coping mechanisms have improved his behavior and that it came with maturity, said Larson. Due to the elevated status of a program like Florida came higher expectations, which created a lot of tension, he said.

“I don’t think I would be the person I am today if it weren’t for going to Florida and learning what I had to learn down there and coming up here,” Larson said. “We can always play the what-if game, I am happy with my decisions and I’m happy to be here. This has been the greatest two years of my life, so far.”