Sheila Dixon thrives on defying the odds and exceeding expectations.
Growing up in a large family with 13 brothers and sisters, the Schenectady High School graduate could have easily been lost in the crowd.
Instead, she rose above it.
The 5-foot-10 senior recently became the 16th player in Brown University women’s basketball history to score 1,000 career points, Dixon knows she has capitalized on a fantastic opportunity.
“I always wanted to go to both a top academic and a top athletic school, and the Ivy League is the best of both worlds,” she said. “Brown kind of chose me. I fell in love with the campus on a visit there, but they were also very persistent. They recruited me heavily. They reached out to me as a member of the Albany City Rocks AAU team, and they made me feel very comfortable.”
Dixon, whose brothers and sisters range from age 18 to 50, said that after the way Brown officials presented its curriculum to her, success would come as easily with the books as on the court.
“I felt I could make a significant impact here,” she said. “Princeton and Yale also recruited me, and they are both fantastic schools, but in hindsight, Brown was the best option for me. It fit me so much better. Brown is open to different learning experiences and learning techniques. That allowed me a different way to learn. I am so fortunate and thankful that I had an academic setting that was so comfortable for me.”
Dixon led the Bears in both scoring and rebounding as a sophomore and a junior. As a sophomore, she averaged 11 points and 6.3 rebounds a game. She earned both team MVP and All-Ivy League second-team honors.
As a junior, she led the Bears to a 16-12 record, again made the All-Ivy League second team and was named the Cox Sports Division I Rhode Island Women’s Player of the Year after scoring 13.1 points per game and pulling down 6.1 rebounds per game. She poured in a career-best 26 points against Providence and ended up fourth in the conference in steals (2.1 per game).
This season wasn’t as kind, although Dixon was still named an All-Ivy League honorable mention. She still led the team in rebounding at more than five caroms per game, but she slipped to second in scoring (12.7 ppg) as injuries took their toll. The Bears also slipped to a 9-19 overall record.
“I struggled offensively through mid-January and into February,” she said. “I couldn’t get my rhythm back. Then I sprained my ankle and missed some games. I also had a couple of other injuries. It wasn’t my best season, but I’m very proud to score 1,000 career points. I knew I was close to the milestone, and then the school paper printed something. It’s very rewarding to join that group.
“All the hard work has paid off. I’ve been given the opportunity to be on the floor since I was a freshman. To be part of Brown’s history means so much to me.”
Dixon earned her spot as a Brown standout following a brilliant career at Schenectady High School, where she led the Patriots to their first Big 10 regular-season title. Schenectady won a school-record 19 games that year. She was named the Big 10 MVP, and recorded a triple-double against Amsterdam.
“To be part of that first title was very exciting,” she said. “We had a great group of kids who stuck together to win that first title. It meant so much after the boys had won so many titles. I like going back there and seeing the championship banner whenever I can.”
A five-year varsity performer in high school, Dixon understands her strengths and limitations
“I would say that my overall athleticism is my strongest suit,” Dixon said. “I also bring a lot of energy to the court, and some intangibles. I liked being on the court at all times. It excites me. I have a passion for basketball, and I want to be a leader in all the stat categories. My coach [Jean Marie Burr] pushed me to do just that. She doesn’t let me settle for less. Once I reached one goal, she told me to find another one and reach even higher.
“I’m an athletic guard who doesn’t really like to shoot that much. But my quickness helps me. I love going to the basket and making crazy shots. Sometimes, I don’t know why they go in. Since high school, I always had this weird release to my shot. It’s sort of a spring-back shot. I definitely use my athleticism to my benefit. It allows me to make shots that other people can’t make.”
Dixon hopes her basketball career isn’t over.
“My passion is to play overseas,” she said. “I’m in the process of checking things out. But you need an agent, and you have to see where the market for players is.”
“I’ve love to play in France, because it’s a beautiful place. I went there on a senior trip, and it helps that I speak a little French. Wherever you go in a foreign place, it can be a great experience, especially if you try to learn the language.”
Dixon said she has discussed her future plans, and is getting some feedback.
“I’ve talked to some Ivy League coaches, and they told me to go for it. They said I have the potential to play some pro basketball overseas, and that I should give it a try,” she said.