- The Washington Times - Monday, April 1, 2002

ATLANTA Just before his head hit the pillow at the Airport Hilton early yesterday morning and after he had torched Kansas for 33 points in Maryland's national semifinal victory it hit Juan Dixon:
He and the Maryland Terrapins would play for the national championship tonight.
For a player who has achieved countless individual accolades this season he was named first-team All-America and ACC player of the year and became Maryland's all-time leading scorer Dixon has remained a team-oriented player while leading the Terps to two Final Fours. A national championship would cap his career perfectly.
This is a fitting end for a player who exceeded just about everyone's expectations except his own in his four years at Maryland.
"This is my last time going through this," Dixon said. "I wanted to go out and be aggressive throughout the tournament on both ends of the floor. I think I've certainly done that. Hopefully I can do that one more game and help my team win a national title."
In making their run to the title game, the Terps have gotten important contributions from several players, but Dixon's have been huge. The first weekend, he dropped 29 points each on Siena and Wisconsin, then netted 27 against Connecticut in the East Region final. His 27.4 points a game leads all scorers in the tournament, and he could become the first player since Glen Rice in 1989 to lead the tournament in scoring and win the national title.
"He's taking the same amount of shots it's just the timing," Terps assistant coach Jimmy Patsos said. "He's been focused for this run. He knows it's his last he's mentioned it in practice. … He's always been in fifth gear [as a competitor]. He's revving the engine as high as he can even though he's in fifth gear."
Dixon has fashioned himself a magnificent career, one in which each new superlative seems to top the last. Sure enough, Dixon's performance in the NCAA tournament has gained him hallowed status among Maryland backers, which should be cemented if he can lead the program to its first national title.
If this season's NCAA tournament provides any indication, there's little doubt Dixon will come through tonight with his typical outstanding effort.
Dixon's semifinal performance was stunning.
With the Terps down eight points early, he scored 10 straight on two 3-pointers, a steal and a layup and a jumper to get them back in the game. In proving he was the best player on the floor, Dixon denied the Jayhawks a chance to take control of the game and buoyed his team after its shoddy start. In short, Dixon, as he has in the past, willed his team to win the game.
"We've got to look to him more," Byron Mouton said. "Especially the first two games of the tournament when he scores [29] points. When a guy is hot like that, you have to keep feeding the ball until he misses."
Yesterday, Dixon spoke about what motivates him to play with such relentlessness and passion. His older brother Phil, who played Division III ball at Shenandoah (Va.) University in the mid-1990s, may be his biggest motivation.
The bond the brothers share was exemplified last weekend in Syracuse. After watching Juan drill a late game-tying 3-pointer in a dazzling 27-point display against the Huskies, Phil broke down and wept while sitting in the first row at the Carrier Dome. Tears streamed down his face and his body trembled, but at the same time he beamed with pride.
"My brother always believed in me," Dixon said. "I learned a lot from Phil he said I would make it [in Division I] for him."
Coach Gary Williams admitted yesterday that he took a big chance that things would work out when he recruited Dixon to play at Maryland. Five years later, Dixon is poised to punctuate his career, as well as his coach's, with college basketball's biggest prize.
"Personally, I worked hard. I had a dream I wanted to be a big-time college basketball player," Dixon said. "I believed in myself and I was able to develop over the last four years to get where I am today, keep getting better as a person and a basketball player.
"Hopefully I can perform well tomorrow. That's been my goal all year long, to be consistent. I think I have the whole year, and hopefully I can for one more game and lead the team to victory."


Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.

 

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide