NBA sizes up Terps' Dixon

At 6-3, 165, guard stirs doubts, but title run lifts 1st-round chances

April 04, 2002|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

He is a first-team All-America guard who is the top scorer in school history and was the best player on college basketball's national championship team.

It remains to be seen how that success will translate for University of Maryland senior Juan Dixon at the professional level.

At 6 feet 3, 165 pounds, is Dixon too small to be a force at shooting guard in the NBA? Will he be able to score on and defend against bigger, stronger players at that position over the grind of an 82-game season? Does he have enough ball-handling skills to survive or excel as a point guard in the pros?

Is he skilled enough to take NBA defenders off the dribble with consistency? Is he destined to be a role player who can score coming off the bench? Will he be a first-round draft pick?

Scouts and general managers throughout the league will be mulling over these questions as they prepare to select 57 players over two rounds in the NBA draft on June 26.

"The big question mark with Dixon is where does he play at the next level?" said Chris Monter, editor of Monter Draft News and College Basketball News. He sees Dixon as a late first-round or early second-round choice.

"At 6-3, [Dixon] has to show that he has the point guard skills. There are a lot of great college shooting guards at 6-2 or 6-3 who never make it. I think of Shawn Respert, who left Michigan State and never made it [in the NBA] as a lottery pick," Monter said.

"He has to create his own shot off the dribble more. He'll be going up against 6-5 and 6-6 shooting guards who are the best athletes in the league. If I see a 6-3, 165-pounder, I'm going to post him up all night. Dixon definitely has the intangibles that teams like. He's resilient, a leader, a good character guy. But there are questions."

Dixon, who came to Maryland from Calvert Hall with similar questions about his ability, led the Terps to a 32-4 record and their first NCAA title by averaging 25.8 points in the tournament and capping his career with a Most Outstanding Player award at the Final Four. The Terps beat Indiana, 64-52, to win the crown Monday night.

Dixon wound up his senior year by averaging a team-high 20.4 points on 46.9 percent shooting, including 39.7 percent from three-point range. He also made 89.8 percent of his free throws, and was a defensive star, as well. He finished with 333 steals, just 12 shy of an Atlantic Coast Conference record.

As a ballhandler who ran the point at times, Dixon had some problems. He ranked third on the team in assists (104), but also turned the ball over 89 times.

"Juan is a great story, but you have to remember he is also a great basketball player," Maryland coach Gary Williams said. "He's already had to overcome the size thing. Look what he did against Kentucky, Connecticut, Kansas and Indiana. Who else does he have to do it against?"

Marty Blake, the NBA scouting director, sees a place for Dixon in the big leagues.

"Does he have to get better? Everybody has to get better," Blake said. "Dixon can be a very, very good player in this league. He's been impressive all year. I know he can play."

Said Dixon: "A lot of people have doubted me in the past, and I proved a lot of people wrong at Maryland. I'm hearing more people saying I can't lead a team or run an offense at the next level. I'm just going to have to prove more people wrong."

NOTE: Terps assistant coach Dave Dickerson interviewed yesterday for the head coaching job at the College of Charleston, and his hiring could be announced by the end of the week. Dickerson, a former Maryland player, has spent the past six seasons in College Park. "I want my assistants to become head coaches, and he's ready. Dave did a great job this year," Williams said.

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