On January 12, 2010, a simple post about how bad the UC 3 point shooting turned into the proclamation that Dion Dixon was my best friend. While a simple comment like that could have faded into the internet ether, it stuck around. On blogger, there was a tag that was "Dion Dixon is my best friend." I've never met him. I've only talked him on twitter. I don't think I've actually called him my best friend to his (twitter) face, but some of you have. He has to be well aware of the Bearcats Blog staple that Dion Dixon is my best friend.
I call Dion Dixon my best friend not as a joke, well, it is kind of a joke, but because I love the way Dion Dixon plays. When I started the blog, part of the reason was because there was no other Cincinnati blog, and another part of the reason was that I had fallen out of touch with UC basketball. I didn't live in Cincinnati. All the games weren't on tv anymore. The team wasn't great. Keep in mind, this was before the days of ESPN3 and ESPNU wasn't that widely available. I caught a lot of the 08-09 season, but I missed a lot. I needed a hook back. That hook came in the Maui Invitational. First game, UC vs Vanderbilt. There is a guard on the court getting almost every rebound he's around, playing like a mad man. Next game against Maryland, off the bench with energy and 5 more boards. That's really all it took. I knew I liked the way that guy played because that guy played hard. That guy was Dion Dixon.
Dion Dixon played in every game his freshman season, starting 5, playing 22 minutes a game, averaging 7.3 points. He was 76-204 from the field, 37%. He was 36-118 from 3, 30.5%. Dion wasn't a good foul shooter, 46-69, 67%. Lowest of his career. Dixon used 19.1% of the UC possessions with a 104.3 offensive rating. He averaged 3 boards a game, 2nd best of his career. The 1.84 a game on the defensive end is still his career high. He had 44 assists to 36 turnovers, a solid 1.2 A/T ratio. Dixon had 16 steals. He blocked 5 shots. Dion fouled out of a game that year, the only time in his career he's done that.
The year I made the statement Dixon was my best friend was the worst of his career. Thick and thin. The only 2 games he's ever sat out happened that year. He played 16 minutes a game with 4.9 points. He was 54-154, 35% from the field. A horrible 14-65, 21.5% from 3. The free throw game stepped up t 39-52, 75%. He used 19.5% of the possessions with a 97.1 offensive rating. That's by far his career low. Dion followed that with a career low 2 boards a game. He had 36 assists to 30 turnovers. He did match his total of 16 steals. But for the most part, it was a year of learning the hard way for Dixon.
Many thought Dixon would have a breakout year his junior year, and break out he did. He started 29 of the 35 games, playing 27 minutes a game with 11.6 points. He was 132-318, 41%. He hit 48-135, 36% from 3. He upped the free throw game to 93-122, 76%. He upped the possession usage to 22.3%, but had a a career best 113.4 offensive rating. All the shooting percentages were also career highs. The 3 point percentage especially. Dixon improved the rebound from his sophomore year, but only to 2.9 a game, still below his freshman level. He had 65 assists to 44 turnovers for a career best 1.5 A/T ratio. He upped the defense to get 36 steals. He blocked 1 shot. Dixon was invaluable to the Bearcats. His 6.9 +/- was 22nd in the Big East. More was expected of him his senior year.
Dixon has started all 29 games this season, playing 34 minutes and scoring 13.2 points a game. He's 125-338, 37% from the field. He's 40-142, 28% from 3. Dixon is 93-131, 71% at the foul line. Noticeable drop offs in all percentages. He has stepped his possession pct a 3rd straight season to 23.3% with an offensive rating of 103. Dion has already set a career best in rebounding with 105, 3.6 a game. His 2 offensive rebounds a game are a career high. He's getting a career low 5.5% of defensive rebounds. He needs 2 assists for a career high. He's at 64 with 53 turnovers. He's back to a 1.2 A/T ratio. He's continued to get better at steals. Dixon ranks 8th in the Big East with 47. He's 12 wtih 1.6 a game. He's blocked a career best 15 shots. That's more than the last 3 years combined. He's been very valuable to the Cats. His plus minus is 204, 16th in the league.
Dion Dixon started his Bearcat career making some noise. He had 8 in the opener and 10 rebounds in the second game of the year, followed by 5-5-2 blocks. Dixon had a couple of quiet games before sparking UC with 13 points on 5-7 shooting in a win over UNLV. That was followed with another 5-5 and 11 points in a Shootout loss to Xavier. After an 0-8 game, Dixon had 14 against Mississippi State at a game I attended. He put up 8-8 and 11 the next 2 games, then conference play started. Dixon's role stayed the same, but the attempts would vary. He had 4, 3, 8, 7, 7, and 5 before breaking out for 14 against Providence. He would add solid minutes off the bench in the next 4 games. Dixon busted out three 10 point games in a row against St John's, Pittsburgh and Louisville. He put up a then career best 18 in a blowout at Syracuse. He ended the year making 3 of 18 shots.
Dixon started his sophomore year quietly the first 2 games before the Vandy explosion in Maui. He had 12 points and 10 boards, his first double double. He was a huge boost off the bench. That went for the next game against Maryland, where he had 8-5. Dixon didn't have a great game against Gonzaga, 2-8, but bounced back for 13 on 5-7 with 3 assists on the mainland. He had a decent 8-4 game against Miami, then went off for 13 against UAB and 15 against Longwood. Dion had 9 the next game, 4 assists after that and back to back 6 point games to start Big East play. He had 13 against Cal St Bakersfield and then the sporadic playing time came. Along with that was missing shots. He went 2-15 the next 3 games with 7 points. He had 6 in a win over USF on January 20 and then didn't score until February 13. He played 32 minutes against Marquette with 12 points, but followed with 3 on 1-7 shooting against DePaul. He wouldn't score from Feb 24-March 11 against West Virginia in the BET. That's the infamous dribble off the foot with the game tied late, that gave Butler the chance to win the game game. It sucked. Dixon scored 2 against Weber St in the NIT and only played 5 against Dayton to close the year.
Dion's junior year opened with a 3 point, 6 rebound game. He scored 10 and 14 the next 2 and 9 in the 4th. Dixon broke out in a big way over Dayton. He scored 20 points on 7-12 shooting. He was outscoring Dayton with 13 minutes left in the game when he took a seat. Dixon continued the roll through December. He scored 11, 17, 15, 12 and 12 at Oklahoma. The best game of his career came against Miami in Millett Hall. Dixon went off for 23 on 7-16 shooting, 8-10 from the foul line. He added 7 boards. The 23 points is still his career high. Dixon opened up Big East play with 16 against DePaul before 9 against Seton Hall. He pumped in 16 with 9 boards in the Xavier win, but followed with 8 on 3-14. He put down 11, 18 and 10 the next 3 games before hitting the wall. After a 3-12 WV game, Dixon scored 0 and 4 the next 2 while playing around 20 minutes. He came back to score 12 on 4-12 in a St John's loss, but had 2 in the Louisville win. Dixon finally broke out of his funk to close the year. He had 16 against Providence, 17 against Georgetown, 7 against UConn, 12 against Marquette and 14 to close the regular season against Georgetown. As tournament play started, Dixon stepped up his game even more. He had 21-6 against South Florida and 15 of the 51 against Notre Dame. Dion had a very successful NCAA tournament debut, 16-6 against Missouri. He only took 2 shots and 3 free throws against UConn though. Dixon ended the year playing very well.
Dion Dixon was expected to be a senior leader on this year's squad. He came out of the box accepting that responsibility scoring wise. He had 14 in the opener followed by 20-9. He was 3-12 for 7 points with 10 boards in Presbyterian upset. He had a row of solid games, 12, 12, 10, before putting the team on his back against Georgia. Dixon scored 19 on 6-11 shooting with 4 boards and 3 steals. He had a rough game in the shootout, 14 on 4-16. With the suspensions handed down, Dixon honed his game. He had 10 against Wright St, 15 on 5-7 shooting, 16-6-5 assists-4 steals against UAPB and 11 against Chicago St. In a game UC had trouble scoring, Dixon had 18 against Oklahoma. He put up 13-5 in the Big East opener at Pitt. He had 18 more, 7-7 from the foul line, in the home opener against ND. The fun run came to an end with one of the worst games of his career, 0-8, 0 points against St John's in a loss. Dixon came back hard the next 2 games. He scored 22 on 8-15 with 4 steals against Georgetown and 22 on 7-19 against Villanova. Dixon struggled a bit the next 3 games, 12 on 4-17, 12 on 5-18 and 5 on 2-10. He had a career best 9 assists in the West Virginia loss. Dixon had strong scoring games against Rutgers, 17 on 6-10, and DePaul, 16, 8-8 at the foul line. Dion had 10 in the St John's blowout before scoring 15 in the Marquette blowout the other way. Dixon was quiet against PC, 7, but picked it back up in a big win over Seton Hall, 20-6-5 assists. Dixon scored 11 on 3-12 shooting against Louisville and 5 on 2-9 against USF. He could use a big game tonight.
When I look back on Dion Dixon's career, I see someone who came up the old fashion way. Dion earned minutes his freshman and sophomore years before moving into the starting lineup as an upperclassman. In the era of guys stepping in the lineup of day 1, player development is something you don't really see anymore. Dixon turned himself from a role player into someone who is 28th all time in UC scoring. Dixon has played in 129 games. If the Bearcats play 5 post season games, he's going to pass Steve Logan for most all time. He's going to pass Larry Davis in 4 games, 2 regular season, at least 1 BET and 1 post season tournament, for the 2nd most of all time. Dixon has been a model of consistency for the Bearcats the past 4 seasons.
The reasons Dion Dixon are my best friend have been pretty laid out throughout this post. He's played hard. When he lays it all out on the court, you can tell. He's answered the bell when he has been knocked down in his career. It hasn't all been easy. Dixon has had to earn his spot. He fell out of the rotation his sophomore year. He earned more minutes. He was benched from the starting lineup last year. He had to earn it back. Dion more than did that. As one of the senior leaders, he's taken a lot of criticism for his performance in losses. I would say more times than not, he's answered them by having a big performance in the following games. Just like he has his whole career. Basketball is one of the rare sports where you track someones growth and development. They play twice a week for 5 months a year. The guys who stick around the whole 4 tend to leave a bigger impact. While Dion Dixon might not go down as an all time great, he's going to go down as an very good player in Cincinnati history. He's a part of the turnaround from the abyss to the NCAA tournament. There are players that people connect with. Looking through the past UC rosters there are guys who weren't the star but you remember quite fondly, the Pete Mickeals, the Bobby Brannens, the Melvin Levetts, Dixon is in that group for me. I hope his senior season ends with a lot of success. He's earned it.