MEN’S BASKETBALL: Dixon expected to go in second

Jay Lively

Western’s Nigel Dixon is running down a dream.

But before he realizes his dream of playing in the National Basketball Association, the 320-pound center will probably need to run off a few unwanted pounds.

Following a solid performance last week at the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament, Dixon is being projected as a middle to late second round pick in the June 26 NBA draft, but scouts and pundits still have concerns about his weight.

“After the Portsmouth tournament, and hearing from the scouts, I definitely need to lose about 15 more pounds to get down to around 300,” Dixon said.

Marty Blake, scouting director for the NBA, said the fact that Dixon has already slimmed down from 420 pounds to 320 is a positive sign in itself.

“He impressed everybody at the camp,” Blake said. “He showed us a lot and played very well. He’s a hard-nosed kid and really battles down low. I think he’ll play in the NBA someday.”

Dixon’s team lost in the championship game of the 8-team tournament that showcased the best seniors in the country, including Kentucky’s Erik Daniels and Cliff Hawkins along with the Louisville’s Luke Whitehead. He averaged nine points and 7.3 rebounds per game, including 10 points and 10 rebounds in the final contest, in which he fouled out after just 12 minutes of action.

Dixon has been plagued throughout his career by foul trouble but said he doesn’t think that will hurt his draft stock.

“Most of the teams I have talked to say they love my aggressiveness,” he said. “That’s just something that a lot of players don’t like to do these days, is bang around in the paint. That’s something I pride myself on doing and unfortunately I got in foul trouble in that game.”

ESPN’s “insider top 10 centers” of this year’s draft placed Dixon as the ninth best prospect at his position and a likely second-rounder. They even dropped a flattering comparison to another big center, saying that Dixon will use “his wide body to get position and blast people out of the way, a la Shaq.”

Dixon hopes to attend the only other NBA pre-draft camp which will be held June 5-8 in Chicago. Between now and then, he’ll work out at a facility in Orlando, where he said he plans to shed some pounds while improving his lateral quickness and 10-foot jump shot.

Dixon said he’s more likely to end up in the Western Conference, where big centers are in demand to bump with the likes of Shaquille O’Neal, Yao Ming and Tim Duncan.

“I think I have a really good shot at (being drafted),” Dixon said. “I’m one of the biggest guys in the draft, one of the guys that can play with their back to the basket and one of the more aggressive big guys that’s coming out. It’s all about timing and having what a team is looking look for.”

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