NORMAL — Illinois State might not have been on Demontay Dixon's recruiting radar a month ago. But when Brian “Penny” Collins became an ISU assistant basketball coach earlier this month, the Redbirds suddenly were in the mix for the 6-foot-9, 190-pound forward.
Dixon, a senior at Summit High School in Spring Hill, Tenn., gave ISU a verbal commitment Sunday after taking a campus visit this weekend. He plans to sign a national letter of intent with the Redbirds in November.
Collins had been recruiting Dixon while an assistant at East Tennessee State before joining Dan Muller's Redbird staff.
“Part of my family and my high school coach (Josh Goodwin) are good friends with Coach Collins,” said Dixon. “My high school coach was actually roommates with Coach Collins for four years in college (at Belmont).”
Dixon said he was impressed on his visit to ISU this weekend “by the staff and the players, the relationships and how they were welcoming.”
East Tennessee State and Murray State had already offered Dixon.
“It was an easy transition for Demontay to pay attention to what Illinois State was doing when Penny made that change,” said Goodwin. “Coach Muller was at Vanderbilt when both me and Penny were in college. We all had a relationship for a long time. I felt comfortable with those guys and conveyed that to Demontay and his family.”
Goodwin said some Ivy League schools also had shown interest in Dixon. “They're not only getting a great player, but a better person than player,” said Goodwin.
NCAA rules prohibit Muller from commenting about recruits until they sign.
“He (Muller) saw me coming in freshman year, getting stronger the first couple months and playing a little bit,” said Dixon. “That's when we'll be senior heavy, and the next year I'll be playing a lot my sophomore year. He sees me as a 4, some post and the wing.
“I kind of do everything. I can dribble, shoot, post up. Whenever I get stronger I'll be able to do a lot of things.”
Dixon averaged about 17 points and eight rebounds last season for Summit, which went 23-7. He was an all-District 11AAA selection.
“He's a guy when most people hear he's 6-9 think he's a back-to-the-basket and tries to pound people, but he has a tremendous skill set,” said Goodwin. “He can shoot the ball and handle the ball like a guard. He's very capable on the perimeter. He creates a lot of mismatch problems.”
Goodwin isn't worried about Dixon being able to add weight.
“He has a good frame and thick, strong legs,” said Goodwin. “Up top he can handle a lot more weight on his shoulders.”
Dixon is recovering from surgery for a torn labrum in his right shoulder suffered while playing for Team Thad out of Memphis during AAU action this summer. Dixon said he expects to be ready when practice starts this fall for Summit.
This has been a busy week for the Redbirds. Earlier this week, Bloomington High School junior forward Chris Payton made a verbal commitment to ISU. Payton can't sign until November 2018.
Muller announced Friday that Zach Copeland, a 6-4 guard from City College of San Francisco who was expected to make a big impact for the Redbirds, was ineligible for this season after failing to meet NCAA transfer academic requirements.
ISU also had a recruiting visit this weekend from Zion Griffin, a 6-5 senior wing from Hinsdale South who is one of the state's top players. Griffin has said he also plans to visit Pittsburgh, Iowa State and Kansas.