Michael Dixon is a 25 year old 186cm guard that is playing his third professional season and first with AEK Athens (Greece-A1). He started his basketball career in 2009 with Missouri (NCAA) playing a total of 104 NCAA games. He transferred to Memphis (NCAA) and as a senior played 34 games: 11.8ppg, 2.2rpg, 2.4apg, 1.3spg, FGP: 46.9%, 3PT: 38.6%, FT: 84.4%. He started his professional basketball career in 2014 with Sigma Barcellona (Italy-A2 Gold), only pre-season, then moved to Dzukija Alytus (Lithuania-LKL): 15 games: 10.8ppg, 3.7rpg, 3.5apg, 2FGP: 39.6%, 3FGP: 41.1%, FT: 85.0%, in Dec.’14 signed at Pieno Zvaigzdes Pasvalys (Lithuania-LKL): 23 games: Score-1(16.0ppg), 3.0rpg, 3.7apg, 1.3spg, FGP: 56.4%, 3PT: 38.1%, FT: 79.1%; Baltic League: 7 games: 13.4ppg, 3.6rpg, 3.9apg, 1.6spg, FGP: 56.1%, 3PT: 30.8%, FT: 85.7%. Last season he played with CEZ Basketball Nymburk (Czech Republic-NBL) playing 19 games: 14.5ppg, 2.8rpg, Assists-4(4.7apg), 1.4spg, FGP: 57.0%, 3PT: 42.9%, FT: 81.3%; FIBA Europe Cup: 11 games: 16.7ppg, 4.5rpg, 4.8apg, 1.6spg, FGP: 63.5%, 3PT: 35.2%, FT: 84.6%;: VTB League: 31 games: 14.4ppg, 2.7rpg, 4.6apg, 1.4spg, FGP: 50.0%, 3PT: 39.8%, FT: 88.1%. He spoke to German Hoops before the Champions League game against the MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg in Ludwigsburg.
Michael welcome to Germany. Last season you played in the Czech Republic. Did you ever make a road trip to Germany or is this your first time here?
I played in a preseason tournament with Nymburk last season in Jena. I remember we lost to Braunschweig. The landscape is pretty similar to the Czech Republic. I couldn´t really see much since we had the normal routine of hotel and gym. I have learned that the BBL is very similar to the NBA and how it´s run. The teams in Germany have very nice logos and nice buses. A nice bus picked us up at the airport today. I also like how players get paid on time in Germany. That is why we play so we can get paid.
Your playing your first season with AEK Athens (Greece-A1). Congrats on the quick strong start of 6-0 in Greece and 3-1 in the Champions League. If someone had told you in the first week of training camp that the team would be where it is now, what would you have thought?
I wouldn´t have been too surprised. Our team, management and I have high expectations to produce well this season. We haven´t played the top teams and know that it will be tough. We just have to take it one game at a time and keep working hard.
Is the record a bit overvalued since you haven´t played the two Greek powerhouses Panathinaikos or Olympiakos yet?
I don´t feel our record is overvalued at all. I have played in countries like Lithuania and the Czeck Republic, but I have never seen more passionate fans than in Greece. There might be 700 fans that come to our game in Ludwigsburg tomorrow. We have done a good job winning on the road and those environments were always very tough. It doesn´t matter where you are playing, but winning on the road is never easy.
The stats don´t lie as the club is first in defense and second in offense. What is the early season success to being on the same page on both ends of the court?
Our coach has preached defense from day one and that is really all that he cares about. We feel that if we can hold teams to under 60 points that we will have a good chance to win. We play good team defense and just focus on stopping people. We also have guys that can score.
Except for a loss to Turkish team Besiktas, AEK Athens has also dominated the Champions League. How is the style of play different there form the Greek league and is it a big adjustment for you?
Many of the teams in our pool should have played Eurocup. I feel that we have the hardest pool in the basketball Champions League. There are many very good teams and many ex Euroleague teams so there is no drop off. The main difference is that in Greece there is more set play and pick and roll while in the Champions League the game is just faster overall.
The club has suitable experience from different countries, but how important has ex NBA player Jawad Williams been for the team and you for keeping it together?
Jawad has been great. He is our starter at the position four. He helps in many areas like communication on defense, spacing the floor and being able to defend many positions. He is the kind of guy that does many of the little things on the court that don´t show up on the stat sheet like getting rebound and loose balls. He is undervalued in my opinion
You leading the team in scoring in the Greek league. With so many scoring options on the team was this the plan for you being such an offensive spark in the early going?
I have had the same role since being a freshman in college up until now which is coming off the bench and helping my team as best as possible. Everybody knows that I can score. I did it everywhere I have played and it is something that I have been accustomed to doing. It´s simply what I do.
How challenging has it been for you sharing the point guard duties with ex NBA player Roko Leni-Ukic? How have you profited from his game?
It´s been great being his teammate. He has so much experience having played at the top levels in basketball like NBA, Euroleague and he was an Olympian as well. I want to reach those levels. It is great being able to pick his brain and get the valuable knowledge from him. He knows how to run a team and plays to win. He is always so positive.
You’re a guy that can fill up the stat sheet, but what would you say is a hidden strength in your game that doesn´t get recognized right away on the court?
My passing is underrated. Even though I usually play the off guard position, I can say that I know how to play the point guard position. I played point guard until I reached college and after that I have usually been stuck at the off guard position. My stats don´t show it, but I believe that I am a good passer. I am the kind of player that makes the hockey assist, the one before the basketball assist. I am never the natural ball handler, but I feel that my passing ability will become more valuable as I progress and move up as a professional. I feel that I am also a good defender, but my biggest attribute is being a good teammate. I think that that gets undervalued in my game. There are so many players that think only about themselves, but it takes five players to win a game. I was always taught to be a good teammate.
When you were growing up and through college to what NBA game do you feel could you have compared your game to then?
Mo Williams, because he does everything solid on the court.
Last season you played for CEZ Basketball Nymburk (Czech Republic-NB) winning the Czech league title. What kind of feeling was it winning your first professional title? How was it different from winning the Big 12 title in 2012?
Winning that 13th title was unbelievable. We had pressure like every team before us having to win again. The club had won 12 in a row and we had to defend that 12th title. We didn´t want to be known as that team that ruined the streak. We lost a game early in the season on the road and that was tough. I saw pictures and videos of winning teams and I wanted to win. Winning the title felt amazing and I really enjoyed the season.
What kind of experience was it playing in the VTB League last season. You saw many different countries. Was there one experience that stood out the most?
Playing VTB was also an unbelievable experience. Spain and Turkey have the best club leagues in Europe, but I feel that the VTB is just as good as the Euroleague. There are very good players in the VTB that showcases much scoring. We were the only non-league team in the VTB that reached the playoffs. We beak Lok Kuban in the regular season that later reached the Euroleague final 4. I played against the best with Malcom Delaney, Tyrese Rice and Milos Teodosic to name a few. There was never any drop off week after week. Each game was tough. Our coaching staff were so proud of us that we made the playoffs. Playing the VTB was the best thing that could have happened to me.
You held your own in the playoffs against Europes best team CSKA Moscow, but lost in the playoffs. Did your play in this series prove to you that you can play with the best against guys like nando De Colo and Milos Teodosic?
I am very confident in my abilities on the court. I put in a lot of hard work every summer to play the game I love. In a humble way, I feel that I am as good as anyone playing in the Euroleague. I think that I held more than my own. It was great playing against the best every night and what more could I ask for.
Last season your teammate was Chasson Randle who is in the D-League. How far is this guy away from the NBA?
Chasson is an NBA player. The problem is that there are certain circumstances in the NBA that every player must deal with and that is politics and very little open roster spots. I am sure that he will get the call up by the New York Knicks this season. He got hurt in training camp and if that hadn´t happened, I am sure he would be in the NBA now. He was the all-time leading scorer at Stanford and can score the ball as good as anybody. He is a sneaky athlete that can guard the positions 1-2 and maybe the three. I predict that he will get called up by the New York Knicks before the allstar break.
You had a roller coaster season as a rookie starting in Italy and then for two teams in Lithuania. What was your wake up call as a rookie where you knew that you were very far away from home in Kanas City?
I had a good college career, but that didn´t mean anything when starting my professional career. I didn´t get a deal out of college, but had a try-out in Italy that lasted only a few weeks. I was cut by a team in Lithuania and then signed with another team there. The team had an ex teammate from Missouri and he told me to come and the rest is history. My rookie season kept me grounded and hungry and why I am where I am today. I continued to stay with it and it paid off.
You played your first three seasons at Missouri and then left leaving a cloudy past and sat out the 2012-2013 season and kept in shape doing a number of things. When you look back at this time now 4 years later how thankful are you that you didn´t give up and stuck with basketball and moved on to Memphis?
I am extremely thankful for how everything worked out. My main focus was to stay in school and graduate and get my degree. One day I won´t be playing basketball anymore and I need to have something I can do. I am so glad I stuck with it after Missouri and going to Memphis. I don´t know where I would be today if I hadn´t done it.
How did head coach Josh Pastner give that last push in your senior year helping groom and prepare you best for a professional basketball career?
He was one of the most positive guys that I knew. He would never be negative or yell. He preached for everyone to be a productive citizen. He was so professional and successful as a coach. I want to model myself after him and just do the best job possible each day. He is at Georgia Tech now. I wish him all the best. He is a good coach, but way better person.
You played against many top players in the NCAA, but which player was the toughest that you faced that is in the NBA now?
I played against very many good players. Alex Burks from the Utah Jazz, CJ Mccollum from the Portland Trailblazers or Victor Oladipo of the Oklahoma Thunder. I also played against current Phoenix Suns Eric Bledsoe or Brandon Knight or Jack Cooley and Chris Babb who are playing in Germany now.. I also played at the Chris Paul camp in high school and college. Every guy that was there is in the NBA now except Chasson Randle and I.
St Louis is a big town, but then again in the basketball community one knows each other. What dealings have you had with Vashoon legend Jimmy Mckinney who had a stellar 10 year career in Europe?
I never met Jimmy Mckinney, but I know of him. He had a good career at Missouri and good career in Europe. I respect him a lot especially coming to play for your home town school which is never easy.
Who won a one on one in practice you or Phil Pressey?
I got the best of him and he might also say that.
If you had to construct your own NBA Rushmore, which 4 heads would you choose?
Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Leborn James and Kareen Abdul-Jabbar.
Lebron finally brought an NBA title to the Cavs. Where does he stand at the moment in the never ending debate with where he stands as the best of all-time?
Lebron will go down as the best ever if he wins two more rings. He might already be there if he wins one more. If Draymond Green hadn´t been kicked out of game 5, the Cavs probably wouldn´t have won. Nobody will ever be like Jordan, but nobody will ever be like Lebron either. There won´t ever be another player that had the full package on the court the way Lebron does.
Where do you rank Kevin Garnett with the best power forwards that ever played the game?
Kevin Garnett is the second best ever behind you know who. Tim Duncan is number one.
What was the last movie that you saw?
The Origin of evil. It was a crazy movie and very scary.
Thanks Michael for the chat.