Dixon bites bullet and finds success Discipline pays: Calvert Hall point guard Juan Dixon has learned to control his flamboyance and turn it to No. 2 Cardinals' advantage.

Boys basketball

January 21, 1996|By Derek Toney | Derek Toney,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

At first glance, Juan Dixon doesn't look like a high school junior. But ask opposing coaches about Calvert Hall's 6-foot-2 point guard with the baby face, and he has proved to be no angel.

"He can flat-out play," said St. Frances coach William Wells, whose team was burned for 20 points by Dixon last Sunday in a 60-54 loss. "He's a great shooter and when someone can shoot like that, he can simply beat you."

Heading into today's game at Catholic League rival, No. 14 Mount St. Joseph, Dixon is averaging 17.1 points, 5.9 assists and 3.5 steals for the No. 2 Cardinals (13-3).

Dixon has been Calvert Hall's most consistent performer, especially in crucial moments.

Against Arundel and minus center Patrick Ngongba, Dixon scored a game-high 23 points in a 65-59 victory over the Wildcats in early December. About a week later, Dixon scored a team-high 18, combining with junior backcourt mate Aaron Herbert for 10 steals in a 59-44 win over Broadneck.

In the Cardinals' Catholic League opener against Gibbons three weeks ago, Dixon scored 13 of his 17 points in the second half of their 69-64 triumph.

"How Juan goes, Calvert Hall goes," said Cardinals coach Mark Amatucci, who has a 56-12 record since returning to his alma mater three years ago. "How he practices on the floor and his work habits reflect on this team."

Probably no one is harder on Dixon than Amatucci.

"He always pushes me to do my best," said Dixon. "He makes you understand that the classroom is more important than basketball, but it was a big adjustment getting used to him."

Making adjustments has become second nature for Dixon.

After spending most of his freshman year playing on the junior varsity at Lake Clifton, Dixon moved to Calvert Hall to improve his academics and play a larger role on the varsity squad.

Over the last 16 months, both of Dixon's parents died, but he has persevered, developing an inner toughness that shows on the court.

In the victory over St. Frances, Dixon scored six points in the first three minutes, then managed only two free throws the next two quarters. After missing eight consecutive attempts from the field, Dixon exploded for Calvert Hall's first seven points in the decisive fourth quarter and finished with 12 in the period.

"There are times that I get kind of anxious," said Dixon, whose brother, Phil, played at St. Frances. "I just try to run the offense and be patient."

A dangerous open-court performer, Dixon has had to discipline himself to be the point man for Calvert Hall's half-court set. It has been difficult at times and is often the subject of conversation when he visits Amatucci in the guidance office, where Amatucci is a counselor.

Dixon has responded, and his continuing maturity will dictate whether the Cardinals can dethrone St. Frances as Catholic League champions after losing in the tournament final last season.

"Juan is very important to our success and he'll catch it if he slacks," said Amatucci. "What makes leaders is their ability to be consistent every day, and that's what leads to championships."

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