ASHLAND — The past, Karissa Dixon says, offers lessons. The present, she believes, is a gift decorated with memories. And the future, in all its wonder and mystery, seems connected to everything.
It's no surprise that the Oregon Tech junior shooting guard often feels sentimental. Her life has been worth reflection.
WHO: Former North Medford standout leads Oregon Tech in scoring as a junior at 14.2 points per game.
up next: Saturday, Oregon Tech (16-7, 9-4 CCC) at Southern Oregon (17-8, 6-7 CCC), 5:30 p.m.
The former North Medford standout will allow herself to reminisce once again when she returns to the Rogue Valley for a game against Southern Oregon University on Saturday.
Coming back is always a special occasion for Dixon, who leads the Owls in scoring (14.2 points per game) and who also averages 6.6 rebounds, three assists and 1.3 steals a night.
The nostalgia of the visit often sets in during the drive over, Dixon says. It continues when she enters Bob Riehm Arena and hears her dad Kevin's voice from the stands, or when she catches a glimpse of her mom, little brother or grandparents. A team of middle-school girls basketball players will be in attendance (the squad that Kevin coaches) and when Dixon is done, she says it would be nice to perhaps spend a few minutes with them. The aspiring grade-school teacher loves being around children, just like her mom Karey who teaches at Roosevelt Elementary. Seeing the children would remind the 20-year-old of when she was their age, of a past that feels more like a path to her.
"There are definitely great memories there," Dixon says of the Rogue Valley.
There have also been many great memories made in Klamath Falls.
Dixon, who needed but a handful of games her freshman year at OIT to break into the starting lineup, has only gotten better as she's grown, Tech head coach Scott Meredith marvels. The 5-foot-10 Dixon has evolved into much more than a shooter, he says.
"She's developed into a tremendous all-around player," he says. "She has that unique ability to create her own shot, but she is also a tremendous passer, tremendous rebounder and does a lot more for us than just score."
Dixon's been perfecting this basketball thing for a while. She played at a young age and grew up in a household interested in hoops: Kevin has coached for many years and led the North program when Karissa was on the team. She averaged 12.3 points, three assists and three steals as a high school senior.
"Having a dad as a coach in high school had its ups and downs, but mostly ups," Dixon says. "Looking back now, it was really, really good for me and I appreciate him. Now he's my biggest fan."
Her effort to get better didn't slow as she set off for college.
"On the court she's extremely unselfish to the point where I had to call her into my office and say, 'Hey, we need you to take shots,'" Meredith says. "She embraced that."
Dixon is following up a successful sophomore campaign at OIT with a junior year filled with highlights, including a couple Cascade Collegiate Conference women's basketball player of the week honors. In a key victory over Warner Pacific on Jan. 26, she erupted for 24 points on 9-of-14 shooting and caught the league's attention.
"I could see it coming early last season when I had a meeting with her," Meredith says of Dixon's continued improvement. "I told her I saw some good things in the future here. Within the next few weeks she was getting double-doubles, was named player of the week and had an all-conference year as a sophomore."
The Owls (16-7, 9-4 CCC), who beat SOU 100-82 on Jan. 5, have won six of their last eight games and stand in third place in the conference race.
"I think personally we have picked up our defense tremendously, getting after it in practice the past few weeks," says Dixon, whose team has limited opponents to 60.6 points per game during conference play. "That has made an impact on how we've been playing. It helps when you shoot the ball well too."
Dixon has shot well and, for it, she thanks her teammates.
"It's great when you get along with your team so well," she says. "I know they'll be friends the rest of my life."
Dixon says she enjoys seeing her Rogue Valley friends and family when the team visits Ashland.
"It brings me back to when I was in high school," says Dixon, whose parents attend most all of her home games. "My friends and family get to watch me and I get to see them. A lot of them can't make it over to Klamath Falls."
Off the court, the psychology major was recently given Academic All-Conference recognition. She says she may end up seeking her master's degree in education at SOU once her undergraduate work is finished.
Dixon and a few of her teammates were recently talking about just how different their lives might be had they not gone to Oregon Tech. Who would be close to them? Where would they be?
The conversation made Dixon feel sentimental.
"I am 100 percent happy with my decision to come here," she says.
Reach reporter Dan Jones at 541-776-4499, or email firstname.lastname@example.org