Last month, elite junior basketball recruit Elizabeth Dixon ended a whirlwind recruiting process when she announced she's headed to Georgia Tech for college. Last week, her father Richard started a tempest when he decided she's headed to a new high school for her senior season.
Elizabeth, an explosive 6-foot-3 forward at Ridgeway (Memphis, Tennessee), is the No. 20 prospect in the espnW HoopGurlz Super 60 for the 2018 class. Richard wants her to keep climbing to the top, and he doesn't see that happening at Ridgeway. His plan is to uproot the family, rent an apartment about 25 miles away across the Mississippi border and enroll his daughter at Olive Branch, which went 33-1 and won a state title this past season.
"My dad is really excited, and I am, too," said Elizabeth of the transfer, adding she didn't have much say in the decision. "I know a lot of people at Ridgeway, but I'm excited for a fresh start.
"I'm excited but also kind of nervous."
Rhonda Kendall, the coach at Ridgeway, said she has not been officially notified that Elizabeth will transfer. But if it does happen, she will not be surprised.
"I will wish her well wherever she goes, and her teammates would be disappointed," Kendall said. "I'm a high school coach, and I'm passionate about my job, trying to do the best I can for my kids.
"I'm not a basher. I told her that no matter what, 'I love you, and I want the best for you.' "
Elizabeth has done well at Ridgeway, earning a 4.0 GPA. On the basketball court, she has improved her numbers dramatically since averaging 3.5 points, 7.5 rebounds and 3.5 blocks as a freshman on a team that made it to the state quarterfinals. This past season, she averaged 18.6 points, 13.0 rebounds and 5.0 blocks, and was named to the all-state team. Ridgeway, however, was knocked out in the regional playoffs each of the past two years, and that's one of the sore spots for Richard.
"When we play summer ball, she's such a good player," said Richard of his daughter. "She plays with an elite [AAU] team. Liz fits them. Then when she comes back to high school, [they] bring her game to an elementary level. They make her look like she doesn't know what she's doing."
Richard said he will ask for an official transfer next month.
A fast learner
Elizabeth, who is the third of four children, was a basketball novice just five years ago when she met trainer Scotty Mason. Richard brought Elizabeth and his youngest child, David, to a gym to work with Mason.
"Scotty is a miracle worker," Richard said. "Liz didn't even know how to bounce the ball when she started."
She also couldn't shoot. Or jump rope. Or catch.
But one thing she could do was stand 6-1, and that was in the summer before her seventh-grade year.
Elizabeth has worked hard -- this past summer she was in the gym about eight hours per day -- and also watched numerous videos of current and former NBA stars, picking up tips along the way. She tries them out on David, who is now in eighth grade. The two have knock-down, push-down, drag-down games of one-on-one.
"The little one drives Elizabeth crazy," said Richard of David, who is now 6-6 and emerging as a legit prospect. "When they play, we think there's a war against each other. It's like Reggie Miller and Cheryl Miller."
Elizabeth said she and her brother usually split wins and losses.
"David has gotten so much better -- he's taller, stronger and more physical," Elizabeth said. "When we first started, he was pushing me all over the place, pulling my arms. We would be about to fight, and my father and trainer would break it up.
"Now our emotions have calmed down. It's not as bad as it used to be."
Unlike high school, Elizabeth said college was her choice.
Her parents supported her Georgia Tech decision, in part because they can make the drive to Atlanta in less than six hours.
Elizabeth turned down offers from schools such as Florida State, Louisville, Ohio State, Kentucky, Tennessee, Baylor and Maryland, among others.
Georgia Tech had a big advantage with Elizabeth, whose parents are natives of Nigeria. A large Nigerian-American population in Atlanta was a big factor in her decision.
"I've been around Nigerian people all my life," said Elizabeth, who was born in Memphis but has visited her ancestral home, most recently when she was 8 years old. "My mom has a lot of family members in Atlanta. I'm going to be around people I can relate to, and that's the main reason why I chose Georgia Tech."
So what will the Yellow Jackets get in terms of a basketball player?
For starters, Elizabeth is a talented athlete who also runs the 800 meters in track. She alters and blocks shots due to her size and length. She is also a versatile defender in terms of being able to check guards or forwards. And she has added a great deal of offensive skill in the past few years.
"Elizabeth can score on all three levels -- post, mid-range and 3-pointers," said Nathan Sadler, who coaches her AAU team, the Arkansas Banshees.
"She's a potential McDonald's All American. I think she will be a college All-American at Georgia Tech because she will play early, and they will design a lot of stuff for her and build around her."
Elizabeth has come out of her proverbial shell of late. She is now quite funny around her teammates and coaches. And she is bold about her game, predicting she will average 25 points, 20 rebounds and 10 blocks during her senior season.
As for her life after basketball, Elizabeth said she wants to be a doctor.
"My dad said if I follow the game plan and become a doctor, that would bring a lot of glory to the family name," Elizabeth said. "He said he would be really proud of me, and that's what I want to do."