Dixon Rises to the Occasion For Shorthanded Wolfpack

Brett Friedlander

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va.-- With Manny Bates having been left back home in Raleigh going through concussion protocol, Danny Dixon had a feeling he'd be seeing more action than usual at Virginia on Monday.

But even at his most optimistic, he'd have had a hard time imagining the important role into which he'd be thrust.

The 6-foot-10 graduate transfer was on the court for most of the final 6 1/2 minutes after the Wolfpack's only other big man, D.J. Funderburk, fouled out early. His defensive effort was a key element in a comeback that helped State rally for a gritty 53-51 victory, its first win ever at John Paul Jones Arena. 

"Give Danny Dixon a lot of credit," coach Kevin Keatts said. "He’s a kid who hasn’t played a lot of basketball. He was hurt for awhile and then he’s been able to play the last couple games. 

"I thought he stepped in and played well. It was tough, because we go from the seven guys that we were playing down to six. When (Funderburk) fouled out of the game, we decided to go with Danny and I thought Danny did a great job."

Dixon was slowed by a foot injury suffered late in preseason camp that forced him to miss eight of the Wolfpack's first 11 games.

His role has increased over the past few weeks as he's returned to health and Keatts has begun playing Funderburk and Bates together for longer stretches. 

Monday, however, he played 14 meaningful minutes -- nearly double his previous season high -- while scoring a basket and pulling down five rebounds (also a season best).

"It's exciting," Dixon said. "I'm always ready to play when they need me. D.J. got some fouls and I was ready to come in and play and get the win. I just came out and did what I do and (gave) the team energy to finish things."

Dixon is no stranger to playing a significant role for his team.

He started 16 times for Missouri-Kansas City last season, averaging 7.5 points and 3.6 rebounds in nearly 20 minutes per game. While his contribution isn't likely to increase significantly once Bates comes back, he's a valuable insurance policy just in case because of his experience, size and the energy with which he plays.

"I'm always ready," he said, "whenever they need me."

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Brett Friedlander