Pitt's Jermaine Dixon Battles Back

It really was quite simple, as there were no spins and dribbles past several defenders, and there wasn't any flying through the air or power dunk.

But Jermaine Dixon's drive to the basket and three-point play conversion might have done more for the Pitt men's basketball team than anything lately. It was Dixon's first hoop this season, and it came in the Panthers' 10th game. Dixon missed most of the summer, the entire preseason and opening eight games with a foot fracture that was broken twice during that span.

Dixon went 0-for-2 in 12 minutes against Indiana in his opening performance December 7 at Madison Square Garden in New York City, but came back with five points in 14 minutes in a win against Kent State this past Saturday. Dixon was 2-for-6 from the field with a drive through the lane, plus one and a runner in the lane, but he missed all three 3-point attempts.

Dixon will play his third straight game for Pittsburgh (8-2) against Mount St. Mary's Saturday at 4 p.m. at the Petersen Events Center.

"It felt good to be out there,'' Jermaine Dixon said. "My foot's still a little sore, a little tender, but it felt good to be able to get up and down the court and help my teammates out. (But) I do need to drive to the basket a lot more. I was a little timid to do that in the Indiana game, and even (against Kent State) I hesitated to do it.

"But Coach (Pat) Sandle, he was telling me to go to the hoop because my legs really aren't there and my jump shot. So, I just have to play. Nobody expects me to do good, so if I do good it'll be a real positive. And if I do bad, it's what everybody expects. So, I just have to play ball. I can do a lot better, but I'm getting better. And I'll get there if I just keep playing.''

Pitt junior guard Bradley Wanamaker was just glad to have Jermaine Dixon back in the lineup.

"It's always great to have Jermaine out there on the court,'' Wanamaker said. "He brings something different from what we have. He brings that enthusiasm and that intensity that makes you want to go even harder on the court.

"It was great to see him get his first basket on a driving layup, so maybe that can get him going where he won't just shoot the ball from the outside.''

Pitt coach Jamie Dixon wasn't as completely positive as his players.

"We saw a different player with Jermaine (in the Kent State game),'' Coach Dixon said. "So, we'll keep watching where he'll be. I know he's going to be fine in a couple weeks, but he's just not the same guy that we've seen before for obvious reasons. I mean, six months is six months.''

The Panthers' head coach referred to the time Jermaine Dixon was out, but as usual Coach Dixon took the most broad approach. It was more like five months from the original injury, but there was practice time involved as well. So, it was hardly five straight months, but it wasn't easy to come back.

"Jermaine practiced for two days, but when he came out here he really didn't look like the same guy,'' Coach Dixon said. "And I think that surprised our guys. It was a bit of a letdown for them and probably our fans, too. We've been through this before with Levance, and he was out six weeks.

"But Jermaine has been out for six months. The only way you know is if you've been through it. There's just no good thing about it. Sure, other guys get to play, while he gets some rest. But that doesn't matter. There's no good thing about Jermaine being out for six months. I feel bad for him, but I know he's going to be right in a couple of weeks. I know he's going to be right.''

And the head coach was thrilled that his player hit a couple shots.

"And just getting a bucket was big for him,'' Coach Dixon said. "I guess it had to be a layup, but it was good for him to score. That's what he needed, so we're battling through it. We're going to find a way.

"I'm sure of it. We're going to be a better team, but we can't play like what we are. We can't play like freshmen, and we can't play like sophomores. So, that's what we have to be.''

And Jermaine Dixon is in a substitute role. But that's all right for now.

"You can see a lot when you're coming off the bench with the way the game's going, and I think it's helping me out,'' Dixon said. "So, coming off the bench now, whether or not I start I know I'm going to play. So, it's all good for me.''

And it's much better than the alternative for the Pitt men's basketball team.

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