ABINGTON >> As the video rolled to an end, Eric Dixon threw down a reverse dunk on one of the well-worn rims at Crestmont Park, landed and unzipped his sweatshirt to reveal a Villanova shirt underneath.
The Abington junior forward is now off the market, announcing his verbal commitment to the national champion Wildcats at Abington High School Tuesday afternoon. The 6-foot-7 forward, a highly touted basketball recruit, whittled down 14 offers to a final four of Villanova, Virginia, Seton Hall and Louisville prior to Tuesday’s announcement.
Still, it was an agonizing decision for Dixon, who only settled his mind a few days ago.
“This weekend really cleared my mind up as to where I was going,” Dixon, wearing a national championship t-shirt, said. “It’s a great basketball program, a great coaching staff and great players but it came down to off the court stuff. Usually where you go to college, that’s where you’re going to stay the rest of your life and I love where I live, I love where I’m from and there was no reason to go states away when the best in the country, arguably, is 40 minutes away.”
— Andrew Robinson (@ADRobinson3) April 17, 2018
This past winter, Dixon helped Abington capture its second straight District 1-6A title, scoring 25 points in the district final win over Plymouth Whitemarsh. He averaged 24 points per game this past season, scoring his 1,000th point early in the campaign and ending the year with 1,616 career points, good for third all-time in program history.
While he still has a senior season to play at Abington, Dixon would be the third local player to give a commitment to the Wildcats in the past three seasons. Archbishop Wood’s Collin Gillespie and Neumann-Goretti’s Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree were both key reserves for Villanova this season as freshmen.
Dixon’s final four came down to the programs and coaches that stayed the most in touch with him during the season. New Louisville coach Chris Mack had been after Dixon while at Xavier and carried that offer over when he accepted the Cardinals’ job once the season ended. Dixon visited Villanova, Virginia and Seton Hall and while he didn’t get a chance to visit Louisville, Dixon felt comfortable enough with Mack and his staff to keep that an option.
“Over the season, these were the four schools that kept in touch with me and I felt like if they were keeping touch with me during a busy basketball season during their busiest schedule, I knew I must be important to them,” Dixon said. “The coaches, I came to know them a little bit more and that was the decision I came to.”
Dixon plays AAU for We R 1 and said he’ll be playing this summer, citing a desire to keep testing himself against high level competition and just a love for the game. At 6-foot-7 and 260 pounds, Dixon is a powerful force in the paint but also has a well-balanced and diverse offensive game that extends a few feet past the 3-point arc.
Not boisterous by nature, Dixon still made an immediate impact for Abington when he arrived as a freshman. Jumping right into the starting lineup, Dixon has remained there while helping Abington win the last three of its six straight Suburban One League National Conference titles.
Abington coach Charles Grasty, who also has Dixon in class, said there’s a side to the junior off the court most people don’t see because of Dixon’s quiet demeanor.
“He’s done some really special things throughout his time here but he’s very humble,” Grasty said. “He’s part of our Athletes Helping Athletes. You’d be surprised, he’ll be walking down the hallway and a kid might be having a hard time, he’ll walk them to class. He’s a really special person and it’s bigger than basketball with him.”
Prior to his arrival at Abington and even after his first season, private schools approached the forward about transferring to their programs citing more exposure and higher levels of competition. As someone who grew up in Abington, learned the game at Crestmont Park (the same one where his announcement video was shot) and advanced up through the local systems, Dixon wasn’t leaving.
He understands playing for his hometown is special and it was that kind of pull that also helped steer him toward Villanova. Abington shows out in force at big games the Ghosts play in and its support the players appreciate and want to make the most of.
“After class today, he stayed and talked, he didn’t want it to be like this but he wanted people to know he appreciated the support,” Grasty said. “I just told him to embrace it, embrace the support, this is our community, this is where you’re from so enjoy it.”
Dixon’s father, Eric Dixon Sr, said he watched more college basketball than ever this past season adding that every time a new school offered, they would watch that team any time they were on TV. The younger Eric was watching analytically, knowing whatever team happened to be on would look very different in two years when he arrived on campus.
He said Villanova’s win in the national title game had no sway on his decision and he watched games looking for styles and schemes specific to each team that would allow him to be successful on the court but also off of it. Dixon said he wants to major in business or accounting and pursue a CPA.
“It was harder than people think,” Dixon said. “These are dream schools for kids so to say no to three of them, it was a hard decision.”
Dixon said all the Villanova coaches told him was they wanted him to come and be a basketball player. The opportunity is there for him to play as a freshman, as long as he puts in the work which Dixon said includes slimming down and getting a bit quicker. They aren’t shoehorning him into one position.
“It’s going to be about how much better I get,” Dixon said. “I would like to play my first year, obviously but in terms of minutes, shots, I couldn’t care less. Just to be on the floor for a national program would be cool.”
Dixon could always score but Grasty has seen a lot of growth in the forward the last three years, both as a basketball player and a person. He’s still not loud, but Dixon is much more talkative now, he and his teammates treat each other like brothers and he’s strived to become a more complete player.
When it came time to put together his video announcement, Dixon knew it had to be at Crestmont Park.
“That’s where our team at the school works out in the summer time, that’s the park I go to when I’m just having fun with my guys,” Dixon said. “It’s a special place to me, I remember going there with my friends being under the lights. It’s where I fell in love with the game.”