Phil Dixon – Toronto Basketball Legend #NPHTrailblazers
NPH Trailblazers is a North Pole Hoops series, illustrating the careers of influential figures of the past, who have paved the way for the present and future of Canadian basketball.
He averaged 40 points per game in high school…without a three-point line.
High school gyms filled up to watch him play.
At the age of 34, on a bad leg, he competed against 23 year olds and was crowned King of Toronto, as the champion of Nike Battlegrounds.
Many beleve he was the best Canadian high school basketball player of all-time.
They called him Dr. Dix.
We would like to re-introduce you to Phillip Dixon.
I’ve been familiar since I was 17 years old, but I didn’t realize what an impact this name had on the Canadian basketball scene.
At the time, I was a high school kid working to play at the next level, and a new program was developing out of Mississauga…the Wolverines.
I made the team and had the opportunity to be coached by Dixon, while hearing whispers about what a talent he was in his day.
But it wasn’t until I became entrenched in the basketball scene that I realized how good he actually was.
In seemingly every basketball circle, his name comes up in highest regard, explaining how complete of a player he was and about the possibilities, had he grown up in this “Golden era of Canadian basketball.”
Former NBA coach PJ Carlesimo, who at the time was at Seton Hall, recruited Dixon.
Bob Maydo, who coached Dixon for five years at powerhouse Bathurst Heights, remembers it vividly.
“I remember PJ came to our school and he said to me, you know what, it’s scary how good he is and he doesn’t even know it.”
That’s Dixon…a humble, understated individual on and off the court.
“On a weekly basis, I run into people, and Phillip’s name comes up despite the fact that he hasn’t played in years,” said Maydo.
Dixon was a 6’5 scoring machine with high I.Q, athleticism, unlimited range and underrated passing ability due to his scoring prowess. As Maydo explained, Dr. Dix was a very unselfish player…the type that would create for his teammates when he saw one of them was struggling. In addition, when neccessary, he became a lock down defender when his team needed it.
Shawn Collins, Head Coach at Humber College and a basketball lifer, broke down Dixon’s game in detail.
“He made it look easy. He had good court awareness, good IQ, ability to move without the ball was excellent; Phil had unbelievable range on his jump shot in an era where the three-point line was just coming in.” explained Collins.
“He was all over the rim, not Andrew Wiggins athleticism, but damn close.”
Who is the best Canadian high school basketball player of all time? This was a North Pole Hoops poll that was conducted in July of 2013, which received mixed and extensive feedback.
Maydo, who has been coaching high school basketball in Toronto for 30+ years and has worked with many great players (including Denham Brown), firmly believes Dixon takes the cake.
“No question it was Phillip. He was the most complete player; passer, scorer, he did it all. At the end of the game you look at the score sheet and someone says he had 58…you got to be joking.”
“I don’t think any of them come close. His ability to compete in the game was different, he made it look so easy.”
I had a chance to sit down with Dixon and take a trip down memory lane.
Naturally, I had to ask who was the best player that he competed against in Canadian basketball circles.
“Don’t sleep on Fridge…ever. I just couldn’t stop him, and he couldn’t stop me,” explained Dixon, referring to 6’5 Wayne Robertson of Runnyemede, who was built like an ox, and drew comparisons to Charles Barkley.
Coach Maydo recounts the Dixon-Robertson match up.
“One of the most exciting games that I’ve witnessed was at the St Mikes tournament…up against runnymede and Fridge…there was about six dunks in the first quarter, the crowd was going crazy.”
Paul Melnik, current Head Coach at Henry Carr, attended Runnymede 1982-87, witnessed the action first hand and had this to say, “Wayne and Phil are two of Toronto’s best ever players who led two of Toronto’s best ever teams Runnymede and Bathurst Heights.”
“We were blessed that they played in the same era, the late 80’s. In a different time, both would have been NBA draft picks,” continued Melnik.
Dixon would go on to play at the University of Utah, where he suffered a serious injury as a freshmen; 80 percent laceration of the superficial peroneal nerve of the left leg.
In other words, this injury was said to be career ending, however Dixon would return (with less athleticism) but nevertheless would end up playing profesionally all over the world in Hong Kong, Columbia and Venezuela. Read this review on NeuropathyHelp.co to know more about nerve damage and how to treat it.
“Coach Majerus (Utah) called me right when it happened. He said that they weren’t sure if he was able to walk properly, after 50-60 stitches,” recalled Maydo.
I asked Dixon if he had any regrets in his career, he repsonded by saying, “everything happens for a reason.”
If I didn’t make it [to the NBA] I want the 30 next guys to do it.”
In his career, he would compete against the best, including Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O’Neal, Alonzo Mourning, Karl Malone, and Tim Hardaway, to name a few.
He reflected on what enabled him to reach such success in the sport.
“At the end of the day it’s about the will…I worked for mine,” explained Dixon.
“Guys are always coming after you for your skill…but they don’t know what it takes.”
In Dixon’s last high school game, he played on a Toronto All-Star team that travelled to Rochester, New York. In the all-star game, he put up 45 points, while winning the three-point shoot out (14/15 3P), and taking the slam dunk contest crown.
“I watched games on TV and would go to the gym for three hours by myself, trying to master certain moves.”
Fast forward into the present, and Dr Dixon is still in the gym working, except now he is giving back to the next generation, through his Mississauga Wolverines program.
After all these years, Dixon and Coach Maydo have maintained their relationship and work together within the Wolverines organization.
“He was very humble as a player…and he’s been that way in terms of giving back to the basketball community,” said Maydo.
“He does what he does because he adores it, likes to help kids and give back.”
Dixon is a living legend in the way he impacted the game as a player; his talent has left a strong impression on the basketball community, and his passion continues to drive this impact today as a coach.
Before Anthony Bennett, before Andrew Wiggins, before all the great Canadian basketball talent we watch today…there was Phil “Dr. Dix. Dixon.”