Iowa's Dixon headlines 2013 Game Time Draft

BY CODY GOODWIN | JUNE 17, 2013 5:00 AM

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Randy Larson had one thing in mind when he sat down for the 2013 Game Time League draft: Do not, by any means, pass up Melissa Dixon.

Perhaps that explains the smile Larson displayed when he discovered he owned the first pick in Sunday evening’s draft — a pick he used on Dixon without any hesitation.

“It’s just an affinity for Melissa,” Larson said. “When your top player is your hardest-working player, it’s contagious. I always took Matt Gatens if I could get him for the same reasons … and if there is such a thing, she’s the ultimate team player.”

Dixon’s first-overall selection came as a small surprise to the other four coaches who met for the Game Time draft. Top-notch players such as Morgan Johnson — the owner of numerous Iowa records and an All-Big Ten selection — and Sam Logic — the electric Iowa point guard who was selected first overall last summer — were available for Larson to pick.

And they didn’t stay on the board long after Dixon was taken. Logic went second to head coach Brian Joens, then Johnson went fourth to former Hawkeye women’s basketball player Hannah Draxten’s squad.

But for Larson, the pick was more about building a team to fit his liking. Dixon’s ability to stretch the defense, he said, allowed for a “rambunctious, excitable, hard-charging frontline player” to come shortly thereafter.

“Claire Till is the perfect complement to that,” Larson said about his second pick. “In those two players, you see players that are always going to play with great determination and with great joy.”

Larson wasn’t the only coach who had a strategy with his early picks. Head coach Brendan Unkrich, with the third-overall pick, took Iowa forward Bethany Doolittle — a pick that, again, surprised some of the coaches, mainly because he passed up on Johnson to go with Doolittle.

“I thought Bethany played really well last year,” Unkrich said. “You have to find a philosophy. I always like to play really fast, so I have a couple of guards, and Bethany can get up and down the court really fast.

“You want a well-rounded team, and a team that’s going to play your kind of ball.”

Larson began both of these summer basketball leagues — Prime Time for the men, in addition to Game Time — to, essentially, help the Iowa basketball programs get better. He said that’s the original and most important purpose they serve.

If the draft is to be any sort of indicator for how much playing time players will receive, each of the returning Iowa basketball players should expect to see the floor a lot. Eight of the first ten draft picks on Sunday were used on returning Hawkeyes, while the other two were used on one former Hawkeye (Johnson) and one who is brand new to the program in Ally Disterhoft.

But that’s something the Iowa players are looking forward to. The challenge of playing with a team they aren’t normally used to even excites the players because it makes them better.

“Because we aren’t with our own team, we have to work on fundamentals and learn to mesh quickly with other people,” Doolittle told The Daily Iowan on June 21, 2012, during last year’s Game Time season. “Getting this practice in the summer definitely helps up bond as a team more during the year.”

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