Nov. 29, 2000
A fantasy of every young basketball player is to be able to dunk. Not just put the ball through, but do so with such horrific force that the ground shakes, the heavens open, and trumpeting angels sing ”Hallelujah!”
Naturally, you must have size to do the above. Nigel Dixon, Florida State’s sophomore starting center, certainly has that at 6-foot-10, fill-in-the-blank pounds
They call him ”Big Jelly,” and not because he makes a great sandwich.
Some say Dixon weighs better than 400 pounds, depending on what college coach, TV broadcaster or sportswriter you choose to believe. The Orlando native wears a size-20 shoe, and when asked what size jersey and shorts he’s got on, said, ”Nigel size.”
Nike specially made Dixon’s basketball uniform. And instead of putting XXXL on the labels, simply had ”NIGEL” stitched across the landscape.
The University of Florida and Clemson had recruited Dixon for football, a sport he’s never played, but probably saw him as a lineman who could block half of Rhode Island. He claims his extra poundage isn’t a problem on the court.
It certainly wasn’t at the Great Alaska Shootout, which also featured Valparaiso University. VU coach Homer Drew had to rub his eyes while watching Big Jelly in action.
”We loved him for what he could do,” Drew said. ”Considering how big he is, I would love him to be on my team because I could shoot 3s over him all day. He sets awesome screens and you’re just amazed by his mobility for that size.
”He would have to be close (to 400). There’s no freakiness about that at all. He can shoot, he’s intelligent, he knows spacing and where to be at the right time. He can play the game of basketball.”
Big Jelly also was a dominant factor at the restaurants in Anchorage.
”You definitely have to eat before he does,” Drew said. ”There might not be anything left.”
Dixon had 12 points and four rebounds in just 12 minutes against Ohio State at the Shootout. When he accidentally elbowed center Ken Johnson, the 6-11, 235-pound senior hit the floor like a carton of eggs.
Johnson compared it to having ”a thousand bricks fall on me.”
When Big Jelly first discovered hoops as an eighth-grader, he stood 6-7 and weighed 280. He’s heard enough size jokes to put together a three-hour comedy monologue.
At FSU, for example, the seats in most of his classes are so small, instructors have to bring in an office desk just so he can stretch out.
”The questions don’t really bother me that much,” Dixon said of interviews. ”I had one person come at me strictly from a football point of view. I didn’t know what to say because I never played the game. I know nothing about football.
”I get food questions, too, all the time. I don’t eat breakfast, maybe some fruit instead. Then I get me a couple chicken sandwiches for lunch. Then maybe chicken again at dinner. I’m a chicken guy.”
Big Jelly weighed 424 as a freshman at Florida State, until coach Steve Robinson read him the riot act. The business major claims he’s at about 380 now. Endurance remains a problem because he’s able to go only about seven minutes at a time before needing to rest.
”Other than that, I can play with anybody,” he said. ”But I know I can do much, much better.”
Big Jelly is a modest, good-natured kid you have to like. I admire him just because he avoids any talk of jumping early to the NBA.
The Seminoles, 1-3, play host to Minnesota tonight at the ACC/Big Ten Challenge on ESPN. Big Jelly says his team is going to surprise people before the season’s over.
”We’re going for it all. I don’t want any crumbs. I want the whole cake,” he said.
Uh-uh. I’m not touching that.
By Al Hamnik, The Northwest Indiana Times