November 13, 2008

A Perfect Fit

On some level, Michael Dixon always knew he wanted to play basketball for the Missouri Tigers.

"I always liked watching them and I always liked that that school is good and it's in my state," Dixon said after signing a letter of intent to play for the Tigers. "It really kind of as I grew older, I was like why would I go anywhere else?"

But it was far from a layup that Mike Anderson would convince the Show-Me State's top prospect in the Class of 2009 to stay at home.

"I would have been comfortable, in the beginning, I'm going to be honest, I kind of really wanted him to get away. I figured he would grow up quicker and everything getting away," said Michael Dixon, Sr. "He's got a whole lot of uncles and aunts in the Bay Area and Cal really recruited him very hard. It's a tremendous academic institution and he has great support. I mean, my parents live five minutes away from the campus."

The Bears were heavily involved. So were programs like Arizona, Oklahoma and Purdue among others.

"That's what I thought too," Dixon admitted. "I thought, I want to go far away."

But, in the end, it all pointed back to Mizzou and the campus just 120 miles from Dixon's home in Lee's Summit.

"I didn't push Mike, but obviously there's a great sense of pride in sending him to the home state. I know that the coaching staff down there did a tremendous job," said Dixon's high school coach, Michael Schieber. "They were in very early with him and Mike's got a very good relationship with them and I think it's just a great fit. I think the system, for Mike, is a great fit. I think the coaching staff is a great fit and obviously I love seeing home state kids go to the home state school."

"I feel it's a tremendous statement when the best player in the state wants to be a part of your program and we have that with Mike," Anderson said in a statement. "We are certainly excited to have Mike join our program. First and foremost, Mike is a quality young man that comes from a tremendous family. He is a high-character person and that shows the first time you meet him."

"I told all of the guys that called on him, I said, there's some kids that this is a pain for, but I said for Mike it's not," Scheiber said. "Mike has been nothing but good. He's just a great kid. Respectful, gets the job done inside and outside the classroom and never had a problem with him. He's a joy to coach. I said he's kind of the anti-version of what you see in a star athlete these days. You see so many guys that just think it's entitled to them and Mike has worked for everything he's gotten."

He's also a pretty good player. Dixon is the all-time assists leader at Lee's Summit West and owns the top two single-season scoring averages at the school. He was an all-state selection as a junior and ought to land on that team again as a senior.

"On the basketball court, Mike is a competitor," Anderson said. "He's won at every level. We feel like he can really flourish in this brand of basketball. We really like his fit, but a lot of programs across the country would have really liked his fit into their system."

Dixon's dad says he has an attribute that many high school players do not.

"The one part of his game that a lot of kids at a point guard position that a lot of kids don't have---I know I didn't have it-is he's got that mid-range game," Dixon, Sr. said. "A mid-range game keeps you out of a lot of turnovers. You don't take the ball too deep into the basket where, at the next level, you can't finish the ball over 6-9, 6-10, 6-11 guys that will be in the Big 12. You have to try to pass it once you get in there and you get in a lot of trouble. But if you have a mid-range game, you can pull up from ten feet, 11 feet, 12 feet, in there, and he's a good shooter from that range."

Dixon's dad credits former Oklahoma State player Victor Williams, who works with a lot of the top players in Kansas City, for developing that aspect of Dixon's game.

Dixon said his success is due to a blend of Williams, Pump-N-Run coach L.G. Goolsby and Schieber. But the ultimate credit goes to his father, who was a college basketball player himself at San Jose State.

"Whenever I would accomplish something or felt like I did something good, my dad wouldn't downplay it or anything. He just knew I could be better," Dixon said. "That made me think I wasn't doing that good. He's never going to think I do great, but every time I do good, it would just be like I've got to take it a step more.

"I kind of felt at times like why are you every time I do something good, be down? But really he just wanted to see me be the best that I could be."

"I'm pretty critical of him as most fathers are, especially fathers who played the game," Dixon, Sr. said. "Michael's a hard worker and he's really put in the work and this is a great accomplishment for him."

Dixon has a senior season on which to focus. The Titans open up the regular season on December 2nd against Rockhurst. But he's already got one eye on the future.

"I see us making the tournament in the next couple years," he said. "I just think people are going to get a new outlook on Missouri basketball. Recruits are going to be saying they want to go to Mizzou."

"It couldn't have been a more perfect place for him to pick than the University of Missouri," said Dixon, Sr. "Everything that's going on down there. And trust me, the basketball program is picking up."

Adding a player like Dixon can do nothing but help the process.

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