Ramiir Dixon-Conover waited a long time for an opportunity to be the leader of the Saint Francis basketball team, and the senior has no plans to give up that role any time soon.
Dixon-Conover confirmed earlier this week that he will return to the Red Flash for another season, taking advantage of the NCAA rule allowing all players an extra year of eligibility because of the pandemic.
“Right now it’s final,” Dixon-Conover, who’s averaging team highs in points (14.3) and assists (4.3), said of his decision. “It’s 100 percent I’m coming back to Saint Francis.”
That is huge news for the Red Flash. Coach Rob Krimmel has one of the youngest teams in the nation this season, so the squad is going through some growing pains with a six-game losing streak since opening with a victory at Pitt.
There’s still time to turn this season around, and the Flash play their first Northeast Conference home game Thursday night against Bryant.
However, there’s also a good chance this season will have to be a rebuilding year for SFU, with all the progress going into helping make next season a success. The fact that Dixon-Conover has committed to returning for another year would put the Flash, who have a lot of good, young talent, in position to rebound with a big 2021-22 season.
There’s still a lot of time left in this season for players across the country to decide if they want to add an extra year of eligibility. Dixon-Conover made his decision a while back, allowing Krimmel and his staff to better prepare for the future, knowing what they’ll have back next year.
“A couple months ago, Coach Krim had called me to his office, and we had a conversation,” Dixon-Conover said. “He told me I didn’t have to make my decision right away. So, I had some time to think about it, talk to some friends, talk to some family members and my father and mother about it. So that’s the plan is to come back next year.”
How good is Dixon-Conover? He scored a career-high 21 points in the win at Pitt, then tied that mark in SFU’s last game at LIU.
The point guard played his freshman season at Southeastern Community College in Iowa, averaging 7.9 points. He said he chose to come to Saint Francis because of Krimmel and the program’s family environment.
“I came on a visit to St. Francis, and me and my mom was up here with Coach Krim,” Dixon-Conover said. “We were in his office, and everything that he said, he’s 100 percent, he stands on it. He gives you a different feeling, like a family environment. He lets you know everything that’s going to go on. You can’t find that at every program, so I feel like that’s one of the big reasons a lot of players tend to stay at Saint Francis.”
Once he got to SFU, though, Dixon-Conover found himself playing with Keith Braxton, Isaiah Blackmon and Jamaal King, all stars who helped make the Flash a perennial power in the NEC.
That meant Dixon-Conover wouldn’t get much playing time early on. He averaged just 1.3 points in 27 games his first season and 4.0 points in 32 games last year.
But with Braxton, Blackmon and King now gone, the time is now for Dixon-Conover to lead the Flash — on and off the court.
“He’s a great kid,” Krimmel said. “He wants to be great. He’s had to wait his time. But I think it’s a lesson in patience, in perseverance, continuing to do your part, continuing to take your role and be great at your role. And then you get something else and you get something else. To see him achieve the success he has in limited time is a credit to him and a credit to his work.
“His growth as a person, being around those guys and his patience, his work ethic, his desire to want to have an impact on this program is something that will carry him far beyond the court. When we were looking for leaders, he actually stepped up and said, ‘Coach, I want to lead this team. I want to be a captain.’ I haven’t had very many guys come to me and say that.
“I love having him. He’s the big brother on the court for us, he’s a leader, he wants to do great, he wants to do well. And on top of it all he’s a great kid.”
Dixon-Conover said he learned the most from King, talking to him a lot his first season at SFU and learning what it takes to play at this level.
“When I first got here in the summertime … Jamaal came like a week later and he called me and he just talked to me about what to expect and what’s going on and everything like that,” Dixon-Conover said. “So I felt like us having that relationship and him talking to me kind of helped me today and this year, what’s going on right now.”
Dixon-Conover said he still talks a lot with King, including after the last loss at LIU that dropped Saint Francis to 1-6.
It’s been a sharp fall for the Flash since they stunned Pitt, 80-70, in the season opener.
“Being that we had so many young guys coming into the game, you kind of didn’t know what to expect from us as a team, being that we missed the summer due to the coronavirus,” Dixon-Conover said of that Pitt game. “We were a little behind, so it was like we didn’t know what to expect.
“We had a lot of young guys starting and a lot of young guys logging in minutes. So I just learned that I can be a leader (for) the young guys and show them the way that the older guys that was here before me showed me.”
Saint Francis suffered a big blow early in the second half of its next game, when Dixon-Conover went down with an ankle injury. The Flash were in a close game against UMBC, but without their point guard, wound up getting blown out, 80-65.
Dixon-Conover couldn’t play in the next three games — losses to Liberty, Virginia and Mount St. Mary’s — then the Flash took a month off.
Dixon-Conover said he was really down when he first got injured, but he knew he had to continue to be a good leader for the young guys, even though he couldn’t play for a while.
“Throughout the whole time I was just worried about getting healthy and still cheering on my guys in practice and in games, sending text messages, making sure everyone’s alright,” he said.
With their point guard now back, the young Flash will have a chance to right the ship in NEC play. They face a very difficult task this week, though, as an outstanding Bryant team comes to town Thursday and Friday.
Still, no matter what happens this season, SFU will have a chance to make strides and build toward the future. A future that, for one more year, will include the team’s veteran point guard.
“When he came back (from injury), my job became a lot easier, because he sees so many things as a basketball player,” Krimmel said. “His basketball IQ is as good as anybody we’ve coached and we’ve had here. His ability to understand the game, and now to step up and work on his game to be a go-to guy for us.”