Daily Egyptian

Tennis team adds walk-on freshman

By Tony McDaniel

With only six players on the fall roster, the men’s tennis team added some much needed depth with a walk on from Chicago.

Jeremy Dixon, a freshman from Oak Park, joined the tennis team this semester and has begun his second week of practice for the Salukis. Dixon originally signed to play with Division III University of Wisconsin-Whitewater but decided not to attend the school for financial reasons. Dixon also received interest from Valparaiso University and the University of Illinois-Chicago.

Dixon decided to start his college career as a finance major at SIU and began attending classes in the fall. Although school took precedent, Dixon did not want to stop playing tennis.

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“I played with the club team a little bit and they just kept telling me I should try out,” he said. “The women’s coach saw me and told me I should call coach.”

Dixon’s signing comes at a great time for the Salukis. The Intercollegiate Tennis Association rulebook states teams must have six players to compete. Before Dixon’s arrival, the Salukis were at the minimum, as most schools keep several players above the required six in case of injury or illness. Coach Dann Nelson said he is grateful for the extra depth Dixon will bring.

“It’s great to have him because if somebody gets hurt, like Mike [Kianicka] did last week, we have somebody else we can put in,” he said.

Dixon played high school tennis for Oak Park- River Forest High School and appeared at the state tennis finals three years in a row, finishing in the top 32 each time.

“Last year, we got fourth in state, we should have won,” Dixon said. “My junior year, I finished top 16 in singles and in the top 32 my sophomore year.”

Dixon has been practicing with the team and finds himself in an interesting situation. All of his teammates are international students, making Dixon the only American.

“There’s a lot of foreign guys, they’re cool,” he said. “It’s fun they’re all very welcoming.”

Dixon’s new teammate, freshman Filip Aleksic, said the team is happy to have him as well.

“I knew him from earlier because we live in the same dorms,” he said. “We’re just getting to know each other, but he is a nice guy, we hang out off the court as well.”

Nelson said he is happy to welcome Dixon on the team from an athletic standpoint and looks forward to what Dixon will bring personality wise to his team’s dynamic.

“He seems to be getting along with the guys and the guys are including him, so that’s a big deal. We’re a family, so you can’t exclude one member, you’ve got to include everyone,” he said. “I’m enjoying being around him and I’m hoping the guys are, too, he’s only been here a few days, but so far so good.”

Nelson said as long as the team can avoid injuries, he plans to have Dixon sit out the first few matches against Northern Illinois University and the University of Detroit to help him transition into the routine of traveling long distances for matches.

“Right now, he’s not ready,” he said. “He’s never been on the road with us so he needs to see how we do stuff on the road. We want to ease him in. We don’t need him right now unless someone gets hurt or sick.”

There are things Dixon will need to work on to get better, Nelson said. He said Dixon will encounter issues his teammates have not faced in training because he joined the team midseason.

“In the fall, you get to work more one-on-one. We’re outdoors, we’ve got more courts, we have more time and you get to work on technique,” Nelson said, “The fall is for them individually, the Spring is for the team, we’re working on tactics, strategy, and how to win, and it’s hard to go back and do technical stuff with a walk on.”

Dixon said in order to consider this season a success, he wants one thing: wins.

Dixon could get his first chance to play when the Salukis take on NIU in Rockford on Friday.

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