With the Memphis Tigers down eight points with 4:23 to play, it looked like the Tigers were heading for another loss that would have put the Tigers on the Bubble. But, Missouri Tiger transfer Michael Dixon Jr. led a Tigers comeback that culminated in a 72-66 win, giving the Tigers a sweep over long time rivals, the Louisville Cardinals. Who says a tiger can’t change his stripes?
The Tigers’ backs were against the wall after a loss to the Houston Cougars on Thursday, so who else better to lead the Tigers to victory than Dixon? Dixon knows a thing or two about having your back against the wall. He was accused or sexual assault not once, but twice at Missouri (no charges were ever filed). Dixon was kicked off the team, forcing him to leave the university. He suddenly had no team to play for, and his future was in certain doubt.
Many have given up in that situation. They fade away and are never heard from again, or they begin a downward spiral and we hear more than we care too. But, Dixon did neither. He decided he needed to make a change, and so he transferred to Memphis.
Josh Pastner has a growing reputation for bringing in troubled players and helping them change their lives. It’s the part of being a basketball coach that we forget is really the most important part of the job. I’ve been guilty a time or two of forgetting this myself.
Pastner once took in a troubled Geron Johnson. Johnson had been kicked out of multiple junior colleges for theft and other issues. Given a second chance, Johnson has not only become one of the better defenders in the country, but he has been a model student at Memphis. Maybe that was why Dixon chose Memphis. Maybe he knew he needed Pastner’s help off the court as much as he needed his help to get back on it.
Whatever the reason, Dixon chose Memphis. The season has not been without it’s on the court trouble for Dixon. Only as of late has he started to find the form that made him the Sixth Man of the Year while at Missouri. But off the court, Dixon has been exemplary. He’s on schedule to graduate, and there has been no trouble to speak of.
Pastner’s plan of a curfew for Dixon, having him check in with him, and giving him early workouts has clearly helped Dixon get back on track. Most importantly, Pastner’s plan has shown Dixon that Pastner cares.
In a loss to Houston on Thursday, the Tiger with the most effort and the most passion was obviously Dixon. Today, with the game on the line against the seventh ranked Cardinals, Dixon’s passion and effort became contagious, pushing the Tigers to victory — kind of like Pastner’s effort and passion for helping others became contagious and pushed Dixon to change his life.