Former Missouri point guard Michael Dixon Jr., has officially found a new home.
Just hours after returning from a recruiting visit to Memphis, Dixon told The Star on Wednesday night that he has committed to the Tigers and coach Josh Pastner.
“Coach Pastner reached out to me and told me about the situation down there, and how he had some players with similarities to me, guys who had been in the wrong situations at the wrong time but are really good people,” said Dixon, who will fly back to Memphis on Thursday and start taking classes. “Those guys progressed and got better and benefitted at Memphis and he thought I could do the same there.”
The decision brings an end to a long saga that began last October, when the Lee’s Summit West graduate was suspended for what Missouri coach Frank Haith called a violation of team rules. Over the course of a month, two documented allegations of rape surfaced, though he was never charged for either, and Dixon chose to leave the program.
“It was hard, you know, but it’s probably been harder on my family than me,” Dixon said. “But I’m a firm believer in God and Jesus and I feel like everything happens for a reason.
“The people who really know me know I’m not the person I was portrayed as. I don’t care about the people who don’t know me or what they have to say. I was in some situations I put myself in, but I haven’t harmed anybody.”
The 6-foot-1 Dixon should add plenty of scoring punch to a team that went 31-5 and reached the second round of the NCAA Tournament last season. As a junior at Missouri in 2011-12, he averaged 13.5 points and 3.3 assists while being named the Big 12’s sixth man of the year.
Dixon said other programs, such as Baylor, Colorado, Minnesota, East Carolina and New Mexico State have shown interest over the past several months. Dixon would not comment on whether any of those schools offered him a scholarship, but he did say Missouri’s coaching staff has been supportive.
“Especially coach Haith and (associate coach) Tim Fuller,” Dixon added. “They have been tremendously supportive of me. I love them for that and always have and always will.”
Dixon said he has been taking online coursework since he left Missouri, in hopes of landing somewhere else.
“If I wasn’t able to go D-1, I was going professional,” Dixon said. “That’s not something I wanted to do but if I had to, I would. This is now how I want to be remembered as a college basketball player.”
It appears Dixon, who was also named to the Big 12’s all-defensive team as a junior, will get his chance to do something about it at Memphis, though he will need a waiver similar to the one Maryland star Dez Wells received last fall to play immediately.
Wells was expelled from Xavier in the midst of allegations of sexual assault, but was never charged. If Dixon receives the waiver, he will have one year of eligibility remaining.
“If God and the NCAA allows it, I’d love to help them out on the basketball court,” Dixon said.
Dixon said it’s also unclear exactly how Pastner will use him. Though he was never shy about his desire to start at Missouri, Memphis’ top three returning scorers — all of whom averaged over 10 points per game — are guards.
“Coach Pastner told me he won’t promise anything, but you know what, in my college career I’ve never been promised anything,” Dixon said. “It’s going to be just like it’s always been. I don’t think the NBA cares about who starts.”
Dixon, however, would have preferred to make that final NBA push with the Tigers last season. Missouri finished 23-11 and made the NCAA tournament but often struggled at the end of games, and his teammates spoke openly about how much he was missed.
“It hurt I wasn’t able to represent my homestate school my senior year,” Dixon said. “Regardless, the University of Missouri will always have a place in my heart because that’s where I’m from.”