- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 21, 2001

COSTA MESA, Calif. Juan Dixon remembers hearing about the legend of Kevin Braswell when he was in elementary school in Baltimore.
"In the sixth grade, all the girls wanted Kevin," said Dixon, Maryland's star shooting guard. "They all knew Kevin Braswell."
Braswell and Dixon met at an open gym that year. The two became inseparable and have leaned heavily on each other since.
Dixon had to cope with both of his parents dying of AIDS when he was in high school. Braswell got caught up in the wrong crowd and had to deal with legal troubles. Eventually he got away from the bad influences and landed in prep school before coming to Georgetown.
"They have both been through a lot of heartaches," said Phil Dixon, Juan's older brother. "They are best friends. Just them being together helped keep them in line. They were always at each other's house, playing basketball. They're like brothers. It's great to just see them fulfill their dreams."
The two junior guards have had illustrious careers in high school and college but have never met in a basketball game. That will change tomorrow when the third-seeded Terps meet the Hoyas, seeded 10th, in a West Region semifinal at the Arrowhead Pond in Anaheim.
After the Terps won their second-round game with Georgia State on Saturday in Boise, Idaho, Dixon quickly left the locker room and ran on to the court to shake hands with Braswell, who was preparing to lead the Hoyas to a victory over Hampton. Dixon told Braswell that Georgetown had to win so the two could renew their Baltimore blacktop battles in a high-stakes game on the national stage.
"I would love to play Georgetown in the Final Four or for the national championship, but you can't be picky," said Dixon, who speaks to his close friend several times a week. "I'm extremely happy for Kevin. He had to leave Lake Clifton [High School] for Maine Central [Institute]. It was tough."
Braswell's problems involved marijuana and came after the death of Dixon's parents and Dixon's transfer from Lake Clifton to Calvert Hall, a private school just outside Baltimore. Yet the two continued to bond and often slept over at each other's homes while Dixon lived with his grandmother.
It was a bond based in basketball and carried over to life. The two regularly display their passions on the court and play with a sense of abandon that drives their teams.
"They're both overachievers," said Maryland coach Gary Williams, who was criticized for recruiting Dixon because of the guard's slight build. "They're both not big guys, but they compete. I would hate to get in the middle of them in a fistfight. Juan is more of a scorer, while Kevin is more of a true point guard."
The 6-foot-3, 162-pound Dixon likely will be matched up with Braswell for short spurts. The Maryland guard will make a point of visiting with his buddy during warmups.
"I'll tell him to play hard," said Dixon, who predicts a 12-point win by the Terps. "I'm not going to wish him good luck. I'll tell him that I love him and to play hard."
That the pair have overcome their hard scrabble lives to meet in such a high-profile college basketball game comes as somewhat of a surprise.
Braswell watched as recruiters backed off him because of his troubles, and he went to an isolated prep school in Maine to get his life together. The fiery point guard with the nice shooting touch is now the soul of a surprising Georgetown team in the NCAA tournament for the first time in four years.
Meanwhile, Dixon is the leading scorer (18.3) for Maryland and is averaging 18 points, five rebounds, four assists and 3.5 steals in the NCAA tournament. He is the heart of the Terps, who hope to make the Final Four for the first time in school history. Maryland has size, depth and talent, but it is the scrawny Dixon who gives the sometimes-passive Terps spirit and a sense of purpose.
"It's shows you can come out of hard things and finally do the things you want to," said Phil Dixon, a Baltimore policeman. "Who would have imagined Kevin being in this situation after all he's been through? Who would have imagined Juan being here after all that's happened to him? It's like an inspiration to little kids that you can survive tough situations and do great things."
The older Dixon recalls Juan and Kevin coming down to his games at Shenandoah (Va.) College, where he was a Division III All-American. He considers Braswell his "little brother," though he will be rooting hard for the Terps.
The older brother recalls his two "brothers" being together, battling through difficult situations in life and heated one-on-one battles on playgrounds. But he also recalls a lighter and goofier side to the two. The way he sees it, the pair have a combined four left feet.
"I remember just tripping out because neither one can dance," Phil Dixon said. "It's funny to even see them try."
The duo may not be able to cut a rug, but they sure can shine now in the Big Dance.


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