Jermaine Dixon Getting Closer

After a promising first season with the Pitt men's basketball team last season, former junior-college transfer Jermaine Dixon was counted on to bring experience to the 2009-2010 Panthers with four starters moving on to professional hoop careers.

Instead of being the lone starter to return to Pittsburgh this year, guard Jermaine Dixon was injured -- twice he suffered a foot injury -- and the resulting September surgery to repair the fracture will keep him out of action possibly into December.

Since the original injury was in July, Dixon is hesitant to rush back. He finally has discarded the crutches that hampered his movements, but he is rehabbing the foot, exercising on a stationary bike and working out in a pool. He is scheduled for more X-rays soon, and that will better set the timetable for his return.

"Sure, I definitely would love to be back for Wofford (the opening game),'' Dixon said. "I wouldn't say that I rushed it the first time, but I wanted to be back. I wanted to get out there. As soon as I got cleared to play, I went out and played.

"I guess in hindsight, I think I should have waited a little longer. So, obviously, I'm not going to rush it this time. If I can be back by the first game, I will definitely come back. But I still might sit out longer than that.''

The season-opener with Wofford is Nov. 13 at the Petersen Events Center. Until then, Dixon will do some shooting and ball-handling drills, but nothing team-oriented as far as practicing with the Panthers is concerned. Dixon said it's all an attempt to get his timing and shot back, slowly and surely.

Just because the senior guard isn't practicing full-time with his teammates, that doesn't mean he isn't contributing.

"I'll just have to coach from the sideline,'' Dixon said. "Actually, I just talked to Levance -- I talk to him every day on Facebook -- and he was out last year at this same time. So, he told me to keep my head up and keep encouraging the guys. Don't let them see me get down, and don't let them get down.

"So, that's what I'm going to do. I have to make sure I'm there when we practice and play games and everything, working out, just everything. I want to be there for the guys to keep them focused and keep them on point this year. We're going to need that in the early going with me and Gilbert not in there.''

Coach Jamie Dixon definitely believes that Jermaine already has had an impact on the younger Panthers.

"Jermaine is there every day at practice,'' Coach Dixon said. "We've had guys step up. Obviously, we want all the guys to be ready, but right now they're not. Jermaine is recovering from his injury. ... It usually comes down to the point guard and looking to the point guard for leadership, so we'll be looking to the guys that I mentioned earlier.

"I think Ashton and Travon have been tremendous in fall workouts. They've both been really good and I've seen a lot of growth in Travon, I've been really impressed with how he has improved these past few weeks since we have started playing. I also saw considerable growth with Ashton in the summer with the U.S.A. Under-19 team.

"And Jermaine, his body can be rested,'' Coach Dixon added. "It's tough and difficult, but he's experienced. "He's there every day, (and) he's leading on the sideline right now. So, oftentimes, that could be even better for players. We have guys that work camp and coach and do things. You learn more sometimes by watching and I think that can be an opportunity for him as well.''

Jermaine Dixon gave one final assessment, considering that he possibly could miss as many games as redshirt junior Gilbert Brown, who has been suspended for the first 11 games due to academic reasons, about this season's Pitt men's hoop team.

"Our expectations don't change,'' Jermaine said. "We want to win the Big East, regular season, and go to Madison Square Garden and win there, too. Then, we want to go through the NCAA Tournament and win the national championship.

"It's all possible. We've got a new team right now, so it'll be a slow process. But it's possible, because we still have a lot of talent. So, we'll take it slow to start and build into a good team, and I think we can be a very good team. Once we all get back and the young guys get some experience, watch out for Pitt.''

So, in the end, it should be business as usual for the Panthers.

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