‘Big Jelly’ rolls onto hill

Kyle Hightower

With apologies to R&B sensations Destiny’s Child, Western may not be ready for this Jelly.

Big Jelly, that is.

That’s the longtime and fitting nickname of 6-foot-11, 350-pound Florida State transfer Nigel Dixon, the Western basketball program’s newest offseason pickup. His frame is as imposing as the presence head coach Dennis Felton hopes he will bring to the team.

Dixon was introduced to media Tuesday afternoon at the old Bowling Green Junior High School. He moved with a slow but deliberate bob as he took the stage wearing a Junkyard Dog Platinum FUBU football jersey.

“I’ve been asking for a redshirt year since my sophomore year so that I could work on my game, but we were always shorthanded and I had to start at center,” Dixon said.? “I’d still be there if I could somehow get a redshirt year.”

Instead, after briefly committing to Fresno State a few weeks ago, Dixon, a three-year starter for the Seminoles, decided to transfer to Western for his final year of eligibility. This after it came to light that Fresno State could be on the verge of NCAA sanctions for providing improper benefits to its players.

His change of heart became official after talking to Felton in the days after news of Fresno State’s troubles broke.

“When I was looking at transferring, it came down to Fresno State and Western, but at the time Western didn’t have a scholarship for me, so I committed to Fresno,” Dixon said.?”After they got in trouble, I didn’t want to be a part of all of that. It was about that time, just a few days ago, that coach Felton called me up.

“This has been a fast transition. I still have so much to do.”

Though NCAA rules require him to sit out a year, it appears to be a perfect situation for the Hilltoppers.? Dixon’s addition to the team appears to be another move to fill the shoes that center Chris Marcus will vacate after this season.?Though they already have 7-foot-2, 185-pound freshman Michael Doe, Dixon will provide a veteran presence in the middle as the wiry rookie continues to progress and get stronger.

“We plan on turning his year off into a tremendous advantage for him,” Felton said. “When you consider what kind of size and ability Nigel has, you can’t help but get excited about the possibilities when you have a year to go to work.

“He obviously is already a veteran of major college basketball, but what excites me more than anything is his desire to develop and improve, to find out just how good he can become.”

Felton said that he plans to have Dixon working mainly on his mobility during his off year, though Dixon said that won’t necessarily mean he will be shedding a lot of weight during that time. Rather, he must become adept at working within the Hilltoppers’ fast break style.

“I’m not going to get below 340,” Dixon said.?”I’m just a naturally big guy.?I worked a lot this summer on building more muscle, and I will be working to get my body fat down to about 13 or 14 percent. Right now I am at about 18 percent.”

The summer work Dixon did was at the LG Sports Science Complex in Orlando, a renowned facility frequented by many professional athletes.

Dixon scored in double digits 10 times last season, including six of his last seven contests, averaging a near-double-double (13.0 ppg and 9.3 rpg) in that string of games. Two of those double-doubles came in action with eventual national champion Maryland. And he grabbed 12 rebounds in the Seminoles’ victory over previously undefeated Duke on Jan. 6.

On taking a step down to the lesser revered Sun Belt Conference, Dixon said he didn’t anticipate it being much of a problem. He said that he’s looking forward to helping the Hilltoppers other big men, Marcus and Doe, get better. And when his time comes, he’s ready to be a factor in the paint.

“I look forward to mixing it up with Chris, and I’m not going to take it easy on Michael,” Dixon said. “As far as the move to the Sun Belt, I’m on a mission and I’ve got to do what I’ve got to do.”

Reach Kyle Hightower at [email protected]