Top college women hoop stars set for Maggie Dixon Classic
LOIS ELFMAN Special to the AmNews | 12/12/2011, 2:53 p.m.
The Maggie Dixon Classic, a women's college basketball doubleheader created in memory of the late Army Black Knights coach who died of an arrhythmia shortly after coaching West Point to their first-ever NCAA Tournament appearance, will be held at Madison Square Garden this Sunday. Baylor will take on St. John's in Game 1 and DePaul will battle Tennessee in Game 2.
"It's an unbelievable experience for our ladies to play in that event, as well as having the opportunity to play Baylor," said St. John's coach Kim Barnes Arico. The undefeated Baylor Lady Bears are currently ranked first in the country in the USA Today Division I Top 25 Coaches' Poll.
Six-foot-8 junior post player Brittney Griner is perhaps the most dominant player in the country. In her sophomore year, she was listed as a first-team All-American on every list. Arico knows that her players will gain valuable experience facing top-ranked Baylor as well as by playing in Madison Square Garden.
"The opportunity to play in the Garden probably ranks up there on the highlights of their careers," she said. "It's such a wonderful place with such great history. It's a great experience and the kids really get excited about it."
Baylor coach Kim Mulkey is looking forward to returning to the Garden and honoring Dixon's memory. "Maggie Dixon was such a special person and an up-and-coming coach," Mulkey said.
For DePaul's Keisha Hampton, it will be her first time on the Garden floor. The Blue Demons have a historical connection with Dixon, who was an assistant coach at DePaul for four years before accepting the head coaching job at West Point.
"It's definitely a great honor," said Hampton, a senior forward. "It's going to be a tough game to play Tennessee. We're excited for that."
As there is every year, there will be a Heart Health Fair running throughout the day. There will also be an on-court presentation to Lady Vols coach Pat Summitt, who is being honored by Madison Square Garden and the Dixon family with the Maggie Dixon Courage Award. Earlier this year, Summitt, the winningest coach in college basketball, was diagnosed with early onset dementia, but she has been steadfast in her determination to coach this season.