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MC becoming Warren County East: 3 former county players starring for Clinton college

Former Warren Central standout James Dixon, right, shoots over Hardin-Simmons’ Andre Washington during Mississippi College’s 57-44 win on Saturday. (Jon GiffinThe Vicksburg Post)

[1/13/04]CLINTON Working his way into the starting lineup, former Warren Central standout James Dixon teams up with two more Vicksburg natives to help keep Mississippi College’s basketball tradition strong.

Dixon, a three-time All-County star for the Vikings, has seen the level of his play increase dramatically this season, along with his minutes.

On Saturday, the Choctaws’ leading scorer Nick Paige struggled to find his shot early on. Dixon picked up the slack, shooting 7-for-8 with game-highs in points (16) and rebounds (8), and MC emerged with a 57-44 win over Hardin Simmons at the Golden Dome.

“I know the system pretty well. I know when I can get my shots off and how to get in there and rebound,” said Dixon, who is in his second year with the Choctaws after transferring from Hinds Community College.

Last year, he patiently paid his dues, coming off the bench for fewer than 14 minutes and 6 points per game. With all five starters gone from last year’s squad, the explosive Dixon now has his chance to shine.

“I feel like I’ve moved into that starting position pretty well, filling the void that the other guys left,” Dixon said.

In 12 games, he ranks second on the team with 12.3 points per game. He’s also leads the team with 64 rebounds, 11 steals and six blocks.

“He just brings so much athletic ability to our team, it’s unbelievable,” said MC assistant coach Kenny Bizot. “He can really score down low, can really finish. He can shoot the ball real well, good defender, good rebounder.”

Bizot helps recruit for the team, but said coaching Porters Chapel from 1996-97 did not help bring the three Vicksburg players to Clinton.

“They were already here before I got here,” said Bizot, who is in his second season with MC. “They’re all junior college guys from Hinds. We really kind of recruited them from Hinds.”

When the season began, the only starter set to return for the Choctaws was point guard Carey Crain, but he will sit out the entire season with a knee injury. His absence paves the way for former Vicksburg High products James Shelton and Jason Walker, who share duty at point guard.

Shelton, a senior, uses his vision and ball control to give the team stability. Walker, who joins the team this season after transferring from Hinds, comes off the bench as a sparkplug who pushes the ball on fast breaks. The two have combined for 10.6 points and 5.7 assists per game.

Dixon admits he enjoys playing on the same team with them even though they’re from VHS.

“It’s kind of weird because I’ve always been a Gator-hater, but they’re good players,” Dixon said. “I like James (Shelton) a whole lot. He’s a veteran on this team, and he holds it down pretty well.

“Jason came in, very quick. He pushes the ball on the break a whole lot. I’ve been playing with him in Vicksburg with pick-up games, so I know him and we clicked as soon as he got here.”

Walker said he’s glad that Dixon is on his team now.

“It’s kind of neat,” he said. “I play with James Dixon, and I always played against him. Now I’m out here playing with him.”

Shelton has played with both while he was at Hinds. In his freshman year, he teamed with Dixon. The next season, Walker joined the team. He said that past experience has helped them this year.

“It makes the atmosphere a lot better,” Shelton said. “We get along, and everybody else gets along, too, since we already knew each other.”

Last year, the Choctaws finished 20-8 and second in the conference. The three Vicksburg natives have helped MC to a 9-4 record so far and a 1-1 start in the American Southwest Conference. And they don’t plan on stopping there.

“We’re pulling everything together now,” Walker said. “We plan on winning everything now and try to get us a ring on our fingers.”