Jason Guarente (@JasonGuarente)
A chance to travel the world is one of the few things basketball has yet to afford Eric Dixon. That’s about to change.
The Abington grad and three of his Villanova teammates are headed to Voiron, France, to represent the United States in the FIBA 3x3 U23 Nations League. They’ll play six games from Monday through Wednesday.
Villanova's Eric Dixon will represent the United States in the FIBA 3x3 U23 Nations League. (Photo: Sideline Photos for Villanova Athletics)
It’s the first stamp Dixon will put in his passport.
“My first time overseas,” he said. “I’ve never been across the Atlantic. I went to Mexico when I was like five. That’ll be a fun deal. Just to see what it’s like.”
Dixon, who’s entering his third year at Villanova though he retains his redshirt freshman year eligibility due to the NCAA’s COVID pandemic blanket waiver, will be joined by Chris Arcidiacono, Trey Patterson and Brandon Slater for the event, which is designed to help countries prepare players for future international tournaments.
This is a rare opportunity for intense competition during the offseason. Dixon is excited to share the court with the same players who will help him through the Big East grind this winter.
After sitting out the 2019-20 season, the 6-foot-8, 260-pound forward appeared in 21 games for the Wildcats this past year, averaging 3.0 ppg and 1.6 rpg. His best game came in a December 1 win against Hartford, when he scored 14 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in 21 minutes.
“Real competition is always a great way to get better,” Dixon said. “Especially against high-level competition. Guys that you’re not familiar with at all. Playing a different kind of game and testing your skills. It’ll definitely be beneficial from that standpoint.”
Villanova coach Jay Wright is serving as an assistant under Gregg Popovich as the U.S. men’s team pursues gold at the Tokyo Olympics.
Four of Wright’s players are preparing for a different international experience. It won’t be the first for Dixon, who has participated in various Team USA training camps through the years. Same with Patterson, a Rutgers Prep (N.J.) grad who was a finalist for the 2021 U19 roster earlier this summer.
A 6-8 wing, Patterson is also hoping to use the 3x3 tournament to build towards a successful first full collegiate season after graduating high school early and arriving on the Main Line midway through the 2020-21 season. A consensus top-50 recruit in the 2021 class, Patterson made brief appearances in two games, but has yet to score his first collegiate point.
Arcidiacono, a 6-5 guard out of Neshaminy (Pa.) and the Perkiomen School (Pa.), appeared in 13 games this past season (four starts), averaging just under a point and rebound per game. Thrust into the starting lineup late in the season following Collin Gillespie’s season-ending knee injury, he started each of the Wildcats’ three NCAA Tournament games, playing a total of 35 minutes with just two turnovers.
Slater, a 6-6 junior wing and the most experienced of the group, has played in 71 games over three seasons, averaging 3.8 ppg and 2.2 rpg in 25 games (two starts) this past season.
The 3x3 format will require some adjustments, including a 12-second shot clock.
“The main difference would be pace and decision making,” said Dixon, who’s the only Abington player to score more than 2,000 career points. “Gotta think quickly and move to the ball. Gotta make quick decisions.”
The U.S. women’s 3x3 team of Stefanie Dolson, Allisha Gray, Kelsey Plum and Jackie Young won gold at the Tokyo Games. The men’s team didn’t qualify.
Dixon called the Villanova foursome a package deal. They’ve played together for years and will see how far that can take them.
“I’m going to a new situation, a new country,” Dixon said. “I’m going to be around people I’ve never seen and can’t speak their language. I’m just going to make sure I can find it within myself to compete alongside my teammates.”