Jacob Dixon doesn’t produce eye-popping statistics. In fact, he doesn’t get to play very much. But make no mistake about it — the senior guard is a very valuable part of Payson’s boys varsity basketball team.
“He’s a really good teammate and a lot of the time he just holds us together,” said senior co-captain Kain England. “Like, when no one else really knows what to say, he knows what to say. He’s really vocal for how much he doesn’t play. And he really means a lot to the whole team.”
Longhorns head coach Joe Sanchez said Dixon not only brings vocal leadership to the team, he also sets an example with his work ethic.
“He’s one of those kids that you know is going to bring everything he’s got every night,” Sanchez said. “Sometimes it has nothing to do with basketball, but he’s got something about him that really gets these guys fired up. They see how hard he works and, if they see Jacob working hard, they’re going to pick up their game. I really feel like he’s gotten individuals playing better with how hard he works, guarding them in practice, and stuff.”
Co-captain Austin Young said Dixon is the kind of teammate you can’t help but like.
“He’s a very hard worker and he’s one of the most encouraging players on the team and one of the best teammates,” the senior point guard said. “He’s a vocal leader off the bench. He’s our biggest cheerleader.”
England said it’s impressive how Dixon doesn’t let his lack of playing time diminish his enthusiasm and his support of his teammates. “He does all the work like us and he’s still there to encourage us,” England said. “He’s not the guy playing all the minutes, but he’s got all the right things to say to encourage the boys and get them ready to fight,” Sanchez said.
It wasn’t clear that Dixon would make the team this season after breaking his arm in the summer of 2012. He got a steel plate in his arm, spent six months in a cast and missed his entire junior season of basketball.
“When I broke my arm, the first thing that was on my mind was, ‘Am I going to be able to play basketball again?’” he said. “My doctor said, ‘Yes.’ But, when I was getting my cast off my arm wasn’t looking good and wasn’t feeling good. I had to go to a couple of specialists and they had to do surgery on it.”
Although it’s been 18 months since the injury, his wrist still bothers him. “I can feel the pain a lot of the time when I shoot,” he said. “I mean it’s always there. It’s never gone away.”
He was rusty when he returned to the court this past summer. But he’s shaken off that rust.
So he was thrilled to make the varsity roster this season.
“It was just amazing,” he said.
And his teammates were thrilled for him when Sanchez picked him to start Thursday against Winslow to substitute for Matt Davis, who had severe leg cramps the night before the game.
“A couple of the boys said, ‘Coach, you should start (Jacob),’” Sanchez said. “They all loved it.”
So Dixon was one of the five Longhorns whose names were called out over the public address system by athletic director Don Heizer. He even scored a basket to help PHS take an early lead before the Bulldogs rallied to victory in the second half.
Sanchez was going put Davis in for the second half, but Davis himself objected.
“I said, ‘Matt, you’re starting in the second half,’” Sanchez said. “And he came up to me and said, ‘Coach, for team morale, I think you should start Jacob.’ And coach Davis, coach Herrera and myself were like, ‘That’s awesome.’
“We’re not winning basketball games and that’s frustrating, but these boys are great kids, they love each other and they’re great character of men that we want in our program.”
Fortunately, Dixon’s mother, Stacey, and his father, Tim, were in the stands. His dad works out of town and hasn’t made many games this season. Moreover, just two days before he was rushed to the hospital with chest pains, which fortunately didn’t turn out to be heart disease.
“It was amazing,” Dixon said. “It was an incredible feeling. I thought they weren’t going to be there. I know the pain he’s in. And right before the game I looked up in the stands and they were right there.”
He’ll get another chance in the season finale on Thursday night as Sanchez plans to pencil him into the starting lineup again.
“He came into the summer league and the fall league and I just don’t even know how many times he told the coaching staff, ‘I’m going to do whatever it takes to make this basketball team,’” Sanchez said. “He’s a great asset to the team. It may not look like it in the stat book, but he’s a huge part of Payson boys basketball.”