I have five words for everyone: First round selection – Juan Dixon. Yes indeed, he’s earned it.
The NCAA tournament’s Most Outstanding Player has played his way to being a first-round selection in this year’s NBA draft.
And all of you out there who disagree with me, probably thought that Shane Battier would be a bust in the league, didn’t you? Don’t lie, tell the truth, it’s OK to admit that ‘Who’s Your Daddy Battier’ is going to be a big contributor to any team that he plays for in the league.
No player in the tournament single-handedly put his team on his back like Dixon did. Yes, I know, Caron Butler had a great tournament, and aside from the Maryland game, so did Jared Jeffries. But, the 2002 national championship banner will hang at the University of Maryland, not in Storrs, Conn. or Bloomington, Ind.
You’ve heard the story a million times: Juan lost both his parents to AIDS, the SAT problems, spending five years at Maryland (he’ll be graduating this summer) waiting for his turn to be the leader.
I don’t need to go over these things with you. But what I may need to do is go over why he will be a success in the league. Make sure you are hearing me correctly. I said a success, not Kobe or T-Mac who are obvious superstars.
What I noticed during the tournament was a man who would not let his team die. Every time Maryland needed a big bucket, he hit it. He wanted the ball in the crunch time just like great players do.
When Maryland was down three to UCONN and things looked bleak, who hit the big three on the next possession to tie the game?
When Indiana was mounting a comeback against the Terps, and Byron Mouton saved the ball from going out of bounds and threw it back in play, who hit the big shot to give the Terps the momentum once again?
I know you are starting to feel me if you weren’t already.
When you look at the NBA, especially now that they can play a form of zone, this makes Dixon an asset to any team. Defensively, he is a great help defender, playing the passing lanes with blazing speed. He is the all-time steals leader in Maryland Terrapin history, and he doesn’t get tired.
Offensively, he is a pretty good (but not great) spot-up shooter, and he curls off picks nicely, just like Richard Hamilton, just like Jeff Hornacek. The only knock on Juan is that he’s 6’3″. So what! Is 6’3″ and 6’5″ that big a difference? Not really. And that only applies if he plays the shooting guard spot as predicted, but the right team might try to teach him how to play the point like Golden State is doing with Gilbert Arenas.
Shane Battier said it best, “You act like I’m not going to get better.”
Juan Dixon is going to get better, and when he does, may he have mercy on the souls of the rest of the NBA.
Brandon Ward, 20, is a junior newspaper journalism student from Riverdale, Md. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.