Carlos Dixon was a good, dependable player for the Hokies during his career. Since he left Blacksburg, he’s played professionally overseas in five different countries. Late last week we caught up with Dixon and got a quick recap of his career at Tech, and what he’s been doing since.
The Road to Virginia Tech
Dixon came out of Salisbury, NC, which is just outside of Charlotte. He wasn’t recruited by any of the big boys of college basketball.
“My high school team wasn’t that good,” Dixon explained. “I scored a lot of points and whatever, but the conference we were in was very tough and we rarely got wins. That held me back a lot.”
Dixon ended up signing with UNC-Greensboro and head coach Randy Peale. However, Peale resigned his position. Dixon was released from his Letter of Intent, and that left him free to go to Fork Union Military Academy to face better competition and to get more high-profile scholarship offers.
“I already had my SAT scores and everything,” Dixon said. “I went there to get better offers and to get more experience against more talented guys than I was used to playing against in high school.”
The plan worked. Dixon received scholarship offers from Virginia Tech, Rutgers, Providence, South Carolina and Clemson after he proved he could play against a high level of competition at Fork Union. In the end, he chose Virginia Tech. Randy Peale, who had recruited him to UNC-Greensboro, was an assistant at Tech under Ricky Stokes, and Jim and David Jackson were assistant coaches at Fork Union.
However, it was mostly comfort level and the opportunity to play as a freshman that led Dixon to sign with the Hokies.
“I knew they [the Jackson twins] went to Tech, and they gave me a lot of input on how Blacksburg is,” Dixon said. “But it was mainly where I felt comfortable and where I would be able to play right away. I thought Tech was the best situation for me.”
Tough years in the Big East, followed by a coaching change
Dixon came to Tech as part of a freshman class that excited the fans. Bryant Matthews and Chris Exilus were also part of that class, and they got off to a hot start by beating VMI 92-68 in the first game of their college careers. Dixon led the Hokies with 21 points that day.
Unfortunately, that was one of the few bright spots of that 2000-01 season. The Hokies finished just 8-19 overall, with a 2-14 record in the Big East. Things didn’t get much better over the next two seasons, as Tech only went 4-12 in the Big East when Dixon was a sophomore and a junior.
As the losses piled up, Dixon put up solid numbers. He averaged 11 points per game as a freshman, 12.2 as a sophomore and 13.8 as a junior. However, the talent level of the team wasn’t translating to wins on the basketball court.
“That first year we were real young, we started three freshmen,” Dixon said. “We had a group of young guys. When we got older, our sophomore and junior years, we just weren’t clicking.”
Athletics director Jim Weaver agreed, firing Stokes after the 2002-03 season.
“Stokes was a great recruiter, but I don’t think he’s the best coach,” Dixon said of his former coach. “We were just not playing up to our talent.”
To replace Stokes, Jim Weaver hired South Florida head coach Seth Greenberg.
Playing under Greenberg
Seth Greenberg inherited a team that was picked to finish dead last in the Big East in 2003-04. He had seniors Carlos Dixon and Bryant Matthews returning, as well as a trio of freshmen: Zabian Dowdell, Jamon Gordon and Coleman Collins. However, Dixon didn’t get a chance to play one last season with Matthews. Instead, he had the same injury suffered by so many Virginia Tech basketball players throughout the years: a fractured fifth metatarsal. His rehab went slowly, so he elected to redshirt and play in 2004-05 as a r-senior.
Dixon admitted that the transition from Ricky Stokes to Seth Greenberg wasn’t easy, but Greenberg was a coach who knew what he was doing.
“It was tough,” Dixon said. “Coach Greenberg is real vocal, real hands on. He demands a lot of you. He knows his basketball. He’s a great coach and he knows how to win, and he knows how to push his players to get the maximum potential out of them.”
In his first three seasons in Blacksburg, Dixon was a good scorer, though sometimes he wasn’t particularly efficient on the offensive end.
2000-01: 11ppg, 33.6% from the field, 34.7% three-point %
2001-02 : 12.2ppg, 37.2% from the field, 35.5% three-point %
2002-03: 13.8ppg, 38.5% from the field, 35.6% three-point %
Dixon could score, and he could shoot the outside jumper, but his overall field goal percentage wasn’t strong. Enter Seth Greenberg, who helped Dixon change his game during his r-senior year in 2004-05.
“He wanted me to be more of an all-around complete player,” Dixon said. “He wanted me to be able to post up a little bit, penetrate, make the extra pass, and finish at the rim.”
The plan worked. Dixon put the ball on the floor more as a senior, and although his scoring average stayed the same, his efficiency went up. As a senior he averaged 13.8 points per game while shooting 44.6% from the field and 41.2% from three-point range. He also averaged a career-high 4.5 rebounds.
Dixon acknowledged that Greenberg made a big impact on his career, though he also recognized some of the issues Greenberg had that arguably cost him his job in the long run.
“I thought Coach Greenberg was a great coach, but not a great communicator,” Dixon said. “He was very stubborn in his own ways, and he thought his way was the right way all the time, no matter if it was on the court or off the court. I think he’s doing well now on ESPN, so I’m happy for him.”
Playing in the ACC
Thanks in part to Dixon’s improvement, the Hokies had a good first season in the ACC. Tech went 16-14 overall, finished the regular season with an 8-8 conference record, and advanced to the second round of the NIT. That was Tech’s first postseason appearance since making the NCAA Tournament in 1995-96.
Dixon had a big hand in Virginia Tech’s first ACC win. Tied at 57 with Clemson in the waning seconds, Dixon stole a pass and took it the length of the court for a breakaway dunk, giving the Hokies the 59-57 lead with just 6.9 seconds remaining. They held on for the win, marking an historical day in the program’s history.
“It was great, just being able to get our first ACC win,” Dixon said. “Just having the team together and fighting as hard as we could together. That win right there got us going. I think we finished fourth in the ACC that year. That win got us rolling and gave us a lot of confidence that we could win in the ACC.”
There were many more great moments that season. Jamon Gordon blocked a shot at the buzzer by NC State’s Julius Hodge to preserve a big win over the Wolfpack, and Dixon himself banked in the game winner while driving the lane against #12 Georgia Tech with 36.8 seconds left.
However, nothing topped what happened on Thursday night, February 17 in Cassell Coliseum. In what Dixon calls “by far, my favorite moment” at Virginia Tech, the Hokies knocked off #7 Duke 67-65. Dixon led the team with 18 points, and he also had nine rebounds.
It was also Dixon who registered the game-winning assist against the Blue Devils. He appeared to be trapped on the baseline, but he kicked it out to an open Zabian Dowdell on the wing for the game-winner. The second half of that game was as good as it gets.
It was especially a great moment for Dixon.
“Oh man it was great, coming from North Carolina, I didn’t get recruited by any of the schools in North Carolina,” Dixon noted. “So beating them felt great, and seeing my family and friends up there in the stands. The night we beat them, my phone was blowing up.”
Though Dixon is from the Tarheel State, he didn’t grow up pulling for Duke and UNC.
“I really wasn’t a fan of either one of them. I was a Florida State fan when I was growing up.”
After Virginia Tech
Dixon graduated from Tech with a degree in Residential Property Management, but he’s still playing basketball overseas. He’s currently playing in Japan, though he’s played in many different countries in the past.
“I played in China for two years, France for four months, then I left France and went to Korea,” Dixon said. “We won a Championship in Korea. Then I played in Argentina for two years, and the past three years I’ve been in Japan.”
Dixon played for the Iwate Big Bulls this past season, averaging 16.8 points and 6.6 rebounds per game while shooting 50.3% from the field. That includes a 40-point game.
With so much experience overseas, what ranks as Dixon’s favorite country?
“Basketball wise I would say Korea, because the style of play suits me, it’s more up tempo,” Dixon said. “But city wise, I loved Argentina. Great all year round, a five minute walk to the beach, just everything down there was great.”
From Big South basketball signee, to a quality starter in the Big East and the ACC, to playing professionally overseas, Dixon has gained a lot of experience in life.
“Oh man, it’s totally different, especially my first two years in China,” noted Dixon. “Just seeing how many people were there, the foods that they eat, their traditions, how they talk to people … it’s way different than what I was used to.”
Notable Accomplishments at Virginia Tech
1,348 points, #22 in school history
183 steals, #10 in school history
6 steals against Wake Forest in 2005, most of any Tech player in a regular-season ACC game
Game-winning three-pointer against BC as a sophomore
Game-winning shot against #12 Georgia Tech as a senior
Game-winning assist against #7 Duke as a senior