Block Party

Jan. 24, 2002

By Mason Kelley

The shot goes up and Husky senior center David Dixon swats it away, putting an exclamation point on this block for it is his seventh in an early-season win over Santa Clara, breaking the Husky single game record in the friendly confines of Bank of America Arena.

Dixon is a dervish - running the floor, challenging shots around the perimeter and grabbing every ball that comes off of the rim. This is not the same player who laced up his Nikes for the Huskies last season. This is a player who realized he has something to prove and is going out a winner his senior year.

It is a level of performance that the Husky coaches always knew Dixon was capable of.

'I did expect these types of performances from David,' says associate head coach Byron Boudreaux. 'I think the biggest thing that contributes to this is his self discipline in terms of getting his mind, as well as his body ready to play.'

This season all of Dixon's statistics are up. Through Jan. 3, he was averaging nearly a double-double with 8.2 points and 8.0 rebounds per game. Through 12 games, Dixon also has 23 blocks, just one shy of his total from all of last season.

'The obvious reasons for his improvement is his conditioning,' Washington head coach Bob Bender says. 'There is also a maturity in to him in that he is better equipped to for a Division-I basketball schedule.'

Dixon's emergence this season has given the Huskies an inside presence they have been looking for since Todd MacCulloch graduated in 1999.

This season's numbers are more impressive given Dixon's struggles in his first two seasons at Washington, when he regularly weighed more than 300 pounds contributed little. The Texas native worked hard to reportedly shed 30 pounds this past summer, and has become a force to be reckoned with inside.

'This year I have been motivated because it is my last season of college basketball and I think about it a lot,' Dixon says. 'I have a couple of friends that are at home that don't play anymore. They are watching me play, so I feel that I have to play well for them.'

Dixon didn't do anything special to take the weight off. Playing with Washington's talented young athletes helped him rediscover his love for the game and his desire to leave the Huskies a winner.

'The only thing I did this summer was play basketball almost everyday. In the past all I would do during the summer is hang out because it was my offseason,' the center says. 'This summer I started playing. The weight started to come off, and that was easier than running hills. I figured if I was going to lose weight I might as well have fun doing it.'

Team captain Grant Leep joins Dixon as the only other senior on the team. He has noticed the changes as much as anyone.

'Ever since he has lost all his weight he has become such a different player. He runs a lot better he gets up a little higher,' Leep says. 'He moves a lot faster and he really has good touch on his face-up jumper, which he has worked on quite a bit.'

To be able to understand Dixon's accomplishment, one must consider his childhood.

Throughout his life, Dixon's mother Philistine has been his biggest supporter. Raising Dixon as a single mother, kept David busy by placing him in youth basketball and baseball programs.

In search of a nickname for her child, she turned to a popular cartoon, Dinky, which seemed to fit her situation. Dinky tells the story of a dog that once fit in the palm of its owner's hand, but eventually grows and grows until it outgrows the house, Philistine says. Little did she know that David - 'Dinky' to his mother - would fulfill his namesake's legend.

Larger than most other kids his age, Dixon had to learn to combat the regular teasing in the schoolyard, Philistine says. He soon put any taunts to rest, however, leading Westbury Christian High School to consecutive state championships while starting at center over his last two seasons.

After earning JC All-American honors at Tyler Community College in Texas, Dixon received scholarship offers from Arizona State, Baylor, Florida State, Washington State and Washington. He chose the Huskies for one reason - coach Boudreaux.

'I would have to say that it was coach Boo (Boudreaux) that drew me to Washington,' Dixon says. 'He always used to call - not as a coach, but like he was one of my boys at home.'

The Husky coaching staff also impressed Philistine.

'The coaches at Washington talked about the school and not basketball. I know that David has talent but an education is more important,' she says.

Dixon's transition to the Division-I game was not as smooth. He found himself riding the bench, and struggling when he did see time on the court. The team's 10-20 was also a shocker for a player used to performing on winning teams.

'It was really depressing my first two years here,' he says. 'I had never lost before in my life. I was going through a phase where I didn't know if I still wanted to play basketball.'

Philistine always knew that David would eventually come out of his shell and reach his potential.

'He is my God-sent child,' she says. 'He is my reason and my purpose for living. No matter what it is, when he puts his mind to it he always shines in the end.'

Dixon's transformation has been a boost for the Huskies this season, his hard work acting as a role model for the younger players. His leadership, combined with that of team captain Leep, helped spur the squad to its best start since the 1997-98 season.

'Their leadership has been critical,' Bender says. 'Grant has the title of team captain and he has done a good job - maybe the best I've ever seen - but it is much better for the team if you have more than one leader. David is the obvious choice. He is a senior with a very important role, and he has produced in that role.'

Everything is coming easier for Dixon this year. Practices aren't as hard, games aren't as much of a challenge, and most importantly, he is having fun. A senior, Dixon knows that this is likely his last chance to taste the sweet fruits of winning.

'This season we have a really young team and that is new for me. It is fun because there is a lot of joking and clowning that goes on,' Dixon says. Everybody knows when it is time to get down to business. Everyone is very competitive and that is what I like.'

Philistine watches her son when she can, and hosted a party at her home in Fresno, Tex., for the Huskies' nationally-televised game against 25th-ranked Gonzaga. Dixon has come a long way, and has shown a lot of character by not giving up when times were tough. 'I didn't want to leave as a loser,' he says. 'I wanted to do everything I could to win.'

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