February 2013

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Page 58 of 60

Thriving in Any Role By Aaron Blau W hen Melissa Dixon committed to the University of Iowa women's basketball team, she was willing to accept any role the coaches asked of her. Two years into her career, Dixon has embraced those roles while helping her teammates along the way. Dixon was so passionate about attending Iowa that she was willing to take a gray-shirt offer, meaning she would have to wait a year before receiving a scholarship. Those plans changed, and Dixon was offered a scholarship immediately out of high school. Dixon hit the ground running her freshman season, coming off the bench as a 3-point shooter. She was quick to give the Hawkeyes a lift, using her enthusiasm and high energy level to give her teammates a boost. Plans changed again for Dixon, as she suffered a meniscus tear against Ohio State on Jan. 2, 2012. She missed seven games and returned to the court at Wisconsin on Jan. 19, where her plans changed again. Jaime Printy tore her ACL in the final seconds against Wisconsin, forcing Dixon into a starting role. As a starter, Dixon helped the Hawkeyes win their final eight regular-season games and earn an at-large berth in the NCAA Tournament. Printy was ready to take back her starting role the following season, but tweaked a hamstring during preseason workouts. Dixon jumped back into a starter's role for three games, and then moved back to a reserve position once Printy was healthy. Earning a starting role can be seen as a promotion in basketball. Moving to the bench can feel like a demotion. Dixon doesn't see it that way. "I don't look at it as a demotion at all," Dixon said. "It's Jaime Printy in front of me. She's a great player. I can still learn a lot from her. I'm just thankful for every minute I get on the court." 59 UI head coach Lisa Bluder knows it can be hard for a player to bounce in and out of the starting lineup. She applauds how her sharpshooting guard has handled the situation. "She was in our starting lineup and for her to accept that she's now coming off the bench, she's handled that beautifully," Bluder said. "She always has a joy about her, no matter what." That joy translates into energy as the sixth player. The Johnsburg, Ill., native knows that her role as a "spark" player is an important one. "I try to keep everyone else's energy up when I'm in the game," Dixon said. "My energy level comes pretty naturally. I try hard to help everyone out and make sure that my teammates have that spark as well." As a freshman, Dixon provided that spark from the 3-point line. She spent countless hours in the gymnasium during the offseason, working on different aspects of her game. "I wanted to be able to do more than just shoot the 3-pointer," Dixon said. "I worked hard trying to develop my overall game." Dixon played 24 games a year ago and tallied 18 assists. She has learned how to share more this season, playing in 19 games with 15 assists. She is one of the best perimeter defenders on the team, and has more to her game than a quick-release 3-pointer. It takes a special person to embrace the sixth-player role. Dixon not only embraces it, she thrives in it. Bluder can pinpoint one simple reason why Dixon is successful in any role. "She works incredibly hard," Bluder said. "Melissa is one of the hardest workers on our team."

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