As Memphis fans debate whether coach Josh Pastner took an unnecessary risk adding Michael Dixon to the roster earlier this week, one of the ex-Missouri stars close friends defended his former teammate.
Detroit Pistons guard Kim English, who played three seasons with Dixon at Missouri, told 92.9 FM ESPN in Memphis that the combo guard is ready to repair a reputation tarnished by two accusations of sexual assault. Dixon wasn't charged in either instance, but the allegations were enough for Missouri to dismiss him from the team last fall and for some Memphis fans to feel a bit squeamish about giving him a second chance.
"He's a great guy," English told the radio station. "He was young. He was in a fun college town and he had a lot of fun, but now he understands the line he can't cross. You're a step away from being a professional. You can't party as much, and you learn that through college.
"We all partied a lot as freshman, and less as sophomores, less as juniors and less as seniors. Mike Dixon had a great time at Missouri, as we all did, but now he understands how important it is to be a productive citizen as well as a productive student-athlete."
Since Dixon has yet to speak publicly about the accusations he faced or the pain of being dismissed from Missouri, English's interview was especially compelling. The former Missouri guard noted the Boone County district attorney never so much as spoke to Dixon because the evidence was so thin and expressed disappointment that his alma mater was so quick to jettison Dixon.
"It's been rough for him," English said. "Some parents take a cell phone away from their kid and they'll be upset or unplug their video games or TV, but Mike was the type of kid that if his parents really wanted to hit him hard, they'd say he couldn't go to an AAU event or to basketball practice. Him being away from basketball, I know it really made him understand how much it is a privilege to be a Division I basketball player. I know he's going to do everything in his power to not put himself in any situations where he'll have to go through a season like he did this year."
If Dixon can avoid trouble, there's no doubt he can help Memphis on the floor next season, assuming the NCAA grants his petition to play right away.
The 6-foot-1 combo guard showed an ability to create for his teammates, finish at the rim or shoot from the perimeter at Missouri, averaging 13.5 points and 3.3 assists as a junior and leading all non-starters nationally in points per game. Throw him into a backcourt that already includes seniors Joe Jackson, Chris Crawford and Geron Johnson, and Josh Pastner has one of the most talented guard quartets in the nation at his disposal.
English says Dixon will endear himself to Memphis fans not only with his talent but with his attitude.
"Mike Dixon is so selfless and so committed to winning," English said. "I've never seen a teammate cry more after losses. He may not like me saying that, but he may have cried every time we lost a game. You can see it in his eyes how much it meant to him. He loves basketball so much and I'm really excited to see him get back on the court."