UNCW basketball duo’s careers come full-circle

McLeod Brown | Sports Editor

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One of the more interesting storylines for the UNC Wilmington men’s basketball team’s upcoming season is the reunion of guards Chris Dixon and Ben Eblen.

After beginning their careers together at the University of Alabama, the duo is set to end their collegiate playing days on the same team as well, with Eblen joining UNCW this season for his final year of eligibility as a graduate student.

Though they began the 2009 season on the Crimson Tide together, each took a different path to UNCW.

Dixon redshirted his first year at Alabama before leaving for Redlands Community College the next season. He then joined the Seahawk program last year, showing the ability to score in bunches and becoming the team’s second leading scorer at 10 points per game.

Eblen, meanwhile, spent three years as the backup point guard on the Crimson Tide before sitting out last spring, searching for a program that would allow him more playing time.

After looking over multiple options, Eblen settled on joining the Seahawks due in part to Dixon’s recruiting.

“I graduated in December from Alabama, had a year left of eligibility, and had a couple of options to enroll in January but I didn’t really like any of them,” Eblen said. “None of them were the right fit, so I decided to wade it out. I talked to a couple AAU coaches back where I’m from, talked to Coach (Andre) Grey, he called me and took me visit up here and really fell in love with the place. I knew Chris Dixon from Alabama, and he had nothing but good things to say.”

By adding an established player in Eblen, someone who has played against high-quality competition in the Southeastern Conference, Coach Buzz Peterson cited his willingness to distribute the ball as a main reason the team recruited him.

“Point guard-wise, I think he’s the first time I’ve been here that there’s a pass-first point guard,” Petersons said. “Ben is a young man who has decent size for a point guard but he’s always looking to pass it, always looking to defend. His mindset is defense, and then pass the ball to the open man. Once he gets more comfortable with the guys, I think he’ll start becoming the leader.”

With Eblen entering the fold as the prospective playmaker for the Seahawks, Dixon is hopeful this will allow him to move off the ball more, creating more scoring opportunities without the ball in his hand.

“He’s been a good friend for the last four years,” Dixon said. “He’s a point guard so he helps me out. I’ll be able to move off the ball and play more. He’s a good player; he’s really going to help us a lot.”

No matter what happens in the Seahawks’ season, the full-circle element of Dixon and Eblen’s rejoining on the court is an intriguing side story.

From their beginning days at Alabama to their final ones at UNCW, the learning experiences have been vast for the duo, something they’ll aim to put to use in leading the Seahawks to a successful season.

“Two little freshmen boys trying to play at Alabama,” Dixon said. “Unfortunately it didn’t work out, we just moved on. We’ve gotten a lot smarter; we know how to play basketball now. As seniors, you gain a lot of knowledge about the game.

“We can do good things on the court. Both of us play more so we can both make plays and get our teammates in better positions to score.”