Dixon signs Wizards deal, gets set to test pro waters

He arrives for minicamp

contract: 3 years, $3.15M

July 12, 2002|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,SUN STAFF

WASHINGTON - Juan Dixon said he probably won't feel like a professional basketball player until the Washington Wizards' veterans arrive for training camp in two months, because he's still around a lot of players who, like him, were recently in college.

However, the former Calvert Hall and University of Maryland star technically became an NBA player yesterday when he signed a contract with the Wizards.

Dixon participated in his first practice with the team's rookies, young veterans and free agents last night, and pronounced himself eager to take the next steps as a rookie.

"The plan is for me to work hard and continue to do what got me here," Dixon said. "I'm trying to learn from the coaches. Coach [Doug] Collins was out there teaching and I got the opportunity to sit there and listen and try to take everything in. Hopefully, when I get out there, I won't screw up. I'm sure I'll be ready."

The Wizards did not disclose terms of the deal, but the league's rookie wage scale slots the 17th pick in the first round for a $3.15 million contract, with $977,000 paid the first year, $1.05 million the second and $1.12 million the third, with a club option for a fourth season that could pay $1.725 million.

Dixon arrived after the morning practice began, just in from Los Angeles, where he attended Wednesday night's ESPY Awards as a nominee for male college athlete of the year.

He signed the contract, then observed the early practice, missing it with Collins' permission, watching his former Maryland teammates, Byron Mouton and Mike Mardesich, attempt to crack Washington's rookie and free-agent roster.

Mouton, who was not selected in the two-round NBA draft, is hoping to land a shooting guard or small-forward slot with Washington. Mardesich, who was a reserve on the 2000-2001 team that went to the national semifinals for the first time in the history of the men's program, played center last season for a team in Bonn, Germany.

"It felt like a couple of years ago when Mikey was there and Byron was there and it was good to see those guys out there and have opportunities to make the Wizards," Dixon said. "Hopefully, they can continue to work hard and things will work out for them."

The team will work out 18 players during a four-day minicamp that opened yesterday, then take 13 to Boston next week for a week of competition with similar players from Atlanta, Milwaukee, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Orlando, Philadelphia, San Antonio and the Celtics.

Dixon and fellow first-rounder Jared Jeffries, the 11th pick overall who reached terms Wednesday on a three-year, $4.28 million deal, will play in the Boston summer league, along with second-year Washington players Brendan Haywood, Kwame Brown, Bobby Simmons and Etan Thomas, plus five others from the invited free agents.

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