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Confident backcourt star Dixon makes things happen for Phoenix


Staff Writer

The Japan Times features periodic interviews with players in the bj-league. Jermaine Dixon of the Hamamatsu Higashimikawa Phoenix is the subject of this week’s profile.

Position: Guard

Age: 24

Ht: 189 cm;

Wt: 90 kg

Hometown: Baltimore

College: Pittsburgh

Noteworthy: His older brother, Juan, played in the NBA from 2002-09 (Washington, Portland, Toronto, Detroit) and also was a key figure for Maryland during its 2002 NCAA championship team. Dixon leads the Phoenix in scoring (16.5 points per game) and is fifth in the bj-league in assists (4.9 per game). He also has 36 steals in 22 games. He scored a season-best 29 points in back-to-back games on Dec. 11 and 17 against the Saitama Broncos and Shinshu Brave Warriors. . . . Dixon played for Hamamatsu last season as well.

Entering the 2009-10 collegiate season, he was described this way on PittsburghPanthers.com: “Senior Jermaine Dixon is Pitt’s lone returning starter from last year’s team. The left-hander proved to be a mentally and physically tough competitor, quick slasher and efficient shooter last year as a junior. Dixon is a natural scorer who can penetrate and attack the basket. He also emerged as Pitt’s lock-down perimeter defender as his assignment often included guarding the opponent’s best perimeter player.”

In your view, what is similar and different about how first-year head coach Ryuji Kawai, who is 36 years old, and longtime bench boss Kazuo Nakamura, who led the team to back-to-back titles in 2010 and 2011, run the team?

They are two different coaches. Kawai is a good coach but he is young and still learning every day as we go. He doesn’t mind asking players their opinion on certain things, where Kazuo ran things the way he wanted. I think they both are good at the way they coach, and Kawai will get better each season he is a head coach.

What are Kawai’s strengths as a head coach?

I think Kawai’s passion for the game is one of his main strengths in coaching. He knows the game and he still studies to make himself a better coach.

Also the fact that he takes advice from guys on the team will make him become one of the best coaches the bj-league will have. He is also a very smart coach, which is key.

Do you view savvy veteran guard Masahiro Oguchi as kind of like a baseball closer who comes into the game in the ninth inning to slam the door on the opponent? I mean, he plays such a key role in the fourth quarter, hits clutch 3-pointers and always seems to come up with a big steal in the final minutes to seal a win.

Yes I can see that Oguchi is like a baseball closer. He is very special to our team and it’s been a lot of times where he has made the biggest plays on our team late in the games.

Is forward Shoji Nakanishi, a quiet but above-average shooter during his time with the Tokyo Apache and Shimane Susanoo Magic, an overlooked part of your team? And how has he stepped into the role he has as a new player for the Phoenix this season?

Nakanishi is a very solid player for our team. He can really shoot the ball, which helps space out the court for guys like myself and (2010-11 MVP) Jeff Parmer.

I don’t know what teams think about him when they prepare for us, but if they overlook him, good because it works in our favor.

What is your assessment of how forward Herve Lamizana has played since he made his Phoenix debut in November?

Lamizana has played well since joining the team and I think he was the key addition from us going from fifth place to (third through Wednesday). He is a great shot blocker, good rebounder and can score. He also gets other guys open shots. The best thing is that he wants to do whatever it takes to win.

What do you think the team can and should do to improve its play in the coming weeks as it gears up for the season’s second half and another run at the title?

I just think if we play our game we will be fine, it’s as simple as that. I don’t feel like there’s a team out there that can beat us when we play our game. We focus in practice every day and listen to our coaches. I think we will be back in the championship game again this season.

Which current or past NBA guards do you think are most similar to you in terms of playing style? And do you model your game after any players?

I think (Boston Celtics star) Rajon Rondo is someone I would compare my game to. Rondo and (Chicago Bulls guard and reigning NBA MVP) Derrick Rose are two guys I watch to try and model my game after. I like to play in open court with a lot of speed like them guys.

At what age or moment -perhaps a super game or a kind word from a teammate or coach — did you feel you had what it takes to be a pro basketball player? Can you dish out a few details about that?

When I was 15, my older brother Juan told me I had the natural ability to play the game, and if I focus on the sport more I could become a pro. Since that day, I’ve been working hard to make myself better.

In your opinion, what are the key things the bj-league needs to do over the next five or 10 years to grow the sport and become a major league like J. League soccer and Nippon Professional Baseball?

I think the bj-league is headed in a good direction. I think they should try to combine the bj-league and the JBL together. It would be good for Japanese players. There’s a lot you can do to make the league better, but I think with time they will make it work out here.

How would you rate media coverage of the bj-league from what you’ve seen on Japanese TV and in the papers?

I’ve honestly never seen a bj-league game on TV . . . but I think they should show more games on TV, though. The bj-league should be much bigger (popularity-wise) than it is in Japan right now and getting more games on TV would make it better.

On opposing teams, who do you consider the top three Japanese players in the league?

I haven’t seen all the players in the league play, but from what I’ve seen I would go with:

A. (Osaka’s) Cohey Aoki. I don’t think he fears anyone on the basketball court. He can get to his spots on the court when he is aggressive.

B. (Ryukyu’s) Narito Namizato. I hear he is the future of Japan guards. I’ve only seen film on him and he is a good point guard from what I’ve seen. He make plays to try to make his teammates better and you don’t get that out of a lot of young guards.

C. (Iwate’s) Makoto Sawaguchi. I also like his game. With time and experience, I think he can be the best all-around Japanese player the league has. He can score and he rebounds great for his size. Once he grows up, he’s going to be a tough guy to stop in the league.

These guys are my three favorite Japanese players in the league.

In the future, what career do you envision you’ll have after your playing days are finished?

When I am done playing basketball, I want to be a coach. I would like to coach on the pro level, but I wouldn’t mind coaching on the college level.

I know for sure though that’s the plan I have for myself when I retire from basketball, which will be a long time from now.

How do you like to relax off the court? What are your hobbies?

Off the court, I just watch movies all day or play video games. I don’t like to do much but relax my body and get ready for the next day on the basketball court.