Less than a year ago, guard Michael Dixon was a preseason second-team All-American selection by The Sporting News after a junior season at Missouri in which he averaged 13.5 points and 3.3 assists. Off the bench.
If Dixon had transferred to the University of Memphis at that moment, there would be no complications. Just excitement over a supremely talented player choosing another stripe of Tiger.
But as has been well-documented, Missouri kicked Dixon off its basketball team and out of school when a second allegation of sexual assault against Dixon in less than three years became public. Dixon was never charged in either situation. He sat out all last year and now he and the Tigers wait for the NCAA’s ruling.
And this is where it gets cloudy. The NCAA’s own rules require that a player who transfers while disqualified or suspended complete one year of residency at the new school. But that’s a problem for Dixon because another NCAA rule gives athletes only five years to complete four years of eligibility and this is Dixon’s fifth year. Yet Dixon and coach Josh Pastner are hopeful the NCAA grants Dixon a waiver because that was their ruling in a similar case involving Maryland transfer Dez Wells.
For now, Dixon waits, attends summer classes at Memphis, practices and works out, and hopes he is on the cusp of a fresh start. Recently, both with other reporters and in a separate one-on-one interview, Dixon addressed the following questions:
Q: If you could make your case to the NCAA, what would you say?
A: “I would tell them in a time where a lot of guys want to go through college for one year or get out as quick as possible, here’s a kid that wants to finish school and graduate and play another year. Just have a senior year, and not just on the basketball court, but in class as well … I don’t see a reason I wouldn’t be able to do that.”
Q: Coach Pastner took a chance with Geron Johnson last season. He previously had some off-court issues, but everything worked out well here. Is he somebody that can help you?
A: “Honestly, I think me and him have gotten the closest. We have class together and study hall. We talk a lot. He’s a really good person … He’s told me a lot of things, some things what to do, some things not to do. He’s kind of guided me along the process.”
Q: With you, Geron, Joe Jackson and Chris Crawford, that’s four senior guards. You excelled as a sixth man at Missouri, but will there be enough basketballs – and minutes – to go around?
A: “(At Missouri) we knew we had to sacrifice our stats and scoring for the betterment of the team. I have the blueprint to that, know what I mean? I’ve done that.”
Q: The last game you played at Missouri was the first-round NCAA Tournament upset loss to Norfolk State. That’s a rough last game …
A: “I have a lot of fuel built up in me as far as basketball and proving to people I’m a good person as well as a good basketball player.”
Q: What was the hardest part of sitting out a year?
A: “I don’t think anybody watched more college basketball than I did last year. The hardest was when Missouri played at Kentucky. Because Kentucky is an elite college basketball atmosphere. I don’t think people realize how hard it is to keep being in shape, to eat right, and to keep your competitive edge. Because that’s only something you can get with nine other guys on the floor.
“I told Coach Pastner I just don’t think we know, as Division 1 scholarship athletes, how blessed we are. I’m not saying everybody does, but people take this for granted.”
Don Wade’s column appears weekly in The Daily News and The Memphis News. Listen to Wade on “Middays with Greg & Eli” every Tuesday at noon on Sports 56 AM and 87.7 FM.