Where is he now: Juan Dixon, Maryland

Maryland players Juan Dixon (top) and Lonny Baxter celebrate after winning the NCAA Championship game against Indiana on April 1, 2002 at the Georgia Dome.

Combined ShapeCaption
Maryland players Juan Dixon (top) and Lonny Baxter celebrate after winning the NCAA Championship game against Indiana on April 1, 2002 at the Georgia Dome.

Juan Dixon had a secret weapon during Maryland’s run to the NCAA championship in 2002, and it wasn’t just his superior basketball powers. The Terrapins’ star guard, who was named most outstanding player for the Final Four in Atlanta that year, carried this weapon in his pocket.

“The owner of the Baltimore Ravens, Steve Bisciotti, before that tournament run, he gave me his Baltimore Ravens Super Bowl ring to carry with me,” Dixon revealed in a recent interview. “He really did. He’s a huge Maryland fan, and he was there supporting us day in and day out, and we just became good friends. One day he was like, ‘Juan, I want you take this ring with you for motivation and good luck and bring back a championship.’ And it worked out. I’m a huge Baltimore Ravens fan, too.”

The Ravens won the Super Bowl in New Orleans the previous year.

Eleven years have passed since Maryland defeated Kansas and Indiana in the Georgia Dome to claim the school’s first and only national championship in men’s basketball, but Dixon wanted to make it clear that he didn’t get to keep the ring. And would not have if he could have.

“I gave him the ring back because I got my own ring,” Dixon said.

Dixon had everything to do with the Terps getting their rings, though he simply was the best player on a team chocked full of star players. All five starters, which included Lonnie Baxter, Steve Blake, Byron Mouton and Chris Wilcox, received All-ACC honors. But it was the All-American Dixon who was the heart and soul of the group.

And he was especially good in the NCAA tournament, averaging 25.6 points over the six games. That’s the second-highest average for a player on a team that played in more than four tournament games.

Dixon had 18 points on 6-of-9 shooting in the title game against Indiana, including a 3-pointer with 9:43 remaining that effectively broke the Hoosiers’ backs.

In a recent interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Dixon talked about what he’s up to these days and what he remembers about the Terps’ magical run.

Q: So what are you up to nowadays?

A: I'm actually back at Maryland and going to school and training every day to get back in the NBA. If not, I'm going into coaching.

Q: You’re 34 now and had a knee injury in Europe a couple of years ago. You think you can make it back?

A: I know I'm still capable of playing at a high level. I know I'm still an NBA player. I can play right now, but I'm not moving how I want to move. That's why I'm training right now. I truly believe with my effort and the effort of my trainer, Joe Sansalone of Optimum Performance Training Institute, I can get back to the NBA. I have a lot of game left.

Q: What do you remember most about the Atlanta Final Four?

A: What I remember is that Maryland team of 2001-02, we were on a mission. We were going to Atlanta to win a national championship. We had our heart broken the year before, losing to Duke in Minnesota. So we came back with a chip on our shoulder going to go to Atlanta. We made up our minds that no matter who we played, we were going to come away with that national championship trophy. And that's exactly what we did. We had a "not-going to lose" mentality.

Q: What do you think was the biggest hurdle the Terps cleared on the way to the title?

A: I'd have to say it was that Connecticut game and Caron Butler and Ben Gordon and Emeka Okafor and those guys. I think they gave us our toughest 40-minute battle. They were extremely talented; they were well-coached, and they matched up with us really well. We were fortunate to come away with that win.

Q: Did y’all stay in Atlanta and celebrate?

A: Oh, yeah. We stayed over in Atlanta and had a great time. We partied at the hotel. We did what 20- and 21-year-old kids would do. We had a great time. We partied with the fans. It was a night I will treasure forever. I'll never forget when I threw that ball up in the air and I embraced Lonnie Baxter, Taj Holden — and that's something I'll treasure forever.