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George Dixon

Vincennes University forward George Dixon signed with EIU Tuesday, giving the Panthers their first late signing period addition for next year's roster.

When Vincennes University coach Todd Franklin watched George Dixon, then a high school senior, go through an on-campus workout with current players in the spring of 2017, one thought instantly popped into his mind.

“He’s built like a guy who’d be a top draft pick in the NFL than he is a basketball player,” Franklin said.

Turns out, Dixon’s build worked plenty fine on the court too. Though he didn’t offer an obvious, natural fit at a position, Franklin offered Dixon a spot on Vincennes’ basketball team. Dixon accepted and started for two years on one of the nation’s top junior college teams and became a Division I prospect.

Tuesday, he officially became a Division I player.

Dixon, a 6-foot-5, 240-pound forward from Vincennes University (Ind.), committed to EIU on Monday and signed Tuesday. His decision comes just a day after concluding an official visit to EIU. He had scheduled official visits to Wright State and Nebraska-Omaha, but chose to end his recruitment and sign with the Panthers.

"I felt that was the spot for me to be," Dixon said.

Dixon is one of two EIU spring signees announced Tuesday, joining Highland (Ill.) C.C. guard Deang Deang. As usual, EIU entered the late signing period with a few spots open by the nature of who they recruit – EIU, like most of the OVC, recruits junior colleges with some frequency, and plenty of junior college players choose to wait until the spring to sign. EIU is certainly familiar with waiting to fill most of its incoming class – the Panthers signed five players last spring.

All of them, though, were targets going back months and years. The same goes for Dixon, who EIU first saw in 2017-18 as a freshman at Vincennes while recruiting rising senior forward Rade Kukobat.

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Vincennes signed Dixon out of IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., though he spent his first three years at Milwaukee’s Riverside High School. Dixon garnered some Division I interest in high school, receiving offers from Northern Colorado and Chicago State. He chose to go to Vincennes, though. As a sophomore, Dixon averaged 11.2 points and 8.9 rebounds per game and helped Vincennes win the NJCAA national championship. He shot 57 percent from the field.

“He was probably the best offensive rebounder in the country in junior college, by numbers at least,” Franklin said. “Sometimes those numbers will lie if you play for someone who’s not really good that just jacks up shots, but he did it for a team that was ranked No. 1, 2 or 3 all year and won a national championship.”

EIU sees him in a similar mold to JaQualis Matlock, an undersized post player who led the Panthers in rebounds per game and ranked second in block rate. Matlock started 20 games – 12 of them conference contests – and became an important part of the Panthers’ rotation despite stats that rarely stood out in the box score.

“They thought I'd be a great rebounder, but also a hustle player, just bringing an intensity to the team, having that spark and energy," Dixon said. "They were telling me how he (Matlock) and I can share that role, he help me, I help him, both of us bettering ourselves."

Dixon did not offer much as a shooter. He took only four 3-pointers and shot 48.6 from the foul line this past season. Matlock, too, made just nine 3s and shot 50 percent on free throws.

Dixon and Deang join McLennan (Texas) C.C. forward and fall signee Jordan Skipper-Brown in EIU’s 2019 recruiting class. As it stands now, those three are the newcomers on a team that brings back seven of its top eight scorers from 2018-19. (Ben Harvey, EIU’s third-leading scorer, transferred in March). EIU will have six seniors on its roster, one year after getting fewer than three total points per game from its seniors.

EIU has one open spot for next year’s team after signing Dixon and Deang.

Contact Patrick Engel at (217) 238-6856. Follow him on Twitter @PatrickEngel_

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Sports writer

I cover Eastern Illinois football and basketball, as well as Mattoon/Charleston prep sports, for the JG-T

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