For Dixon and Homer, a case of opposites connecting in Royals back court
Wednesday, December 5, 2012 – Submitted by Howard Tsumura, The Province
Handsworth Royals guards Abby Dixon (left) and Elisa Homer bring contrasting but complimentary styles to the North Vancouver team. (PNG Photos by Gerry Kahrmann)
VANCOUVER — Fire and ice.
If you ask Handsworth Royals senior girls basketball coach Scott Palmer to talk about the chemical elements that makes up his starting back court, he can’t think of a better way to describe the contrasting nature of his two seniors, off-guard Elisa Homer and point guard Abby Dixon.
“They bring totally different things to the floor,” said Palmer, whose No. 5-ranked Royals opened play Wednesday at Vancouver’s York House School in the opening round of the annual Telus Basketball Classic with a 68-31 win over Abbotsford’s Rick Hansen Hurricanes. “But they have always complimented each other because they read each other so well.”
(Full tourney results, bracket below)
With a penchant for getting to the free throw line like no other Royals player before her, Homer not only wears her aggression on her sleeve, but on her face, serving as the team’s emotional leader.
And Dixon, in a sport where an equal dose of even-keeled stability is so often the difference in keeping a team together, is the polar opposite, bringing that contrasting sense of calm in the moments her teammates need it most.
And in keeping with the theme of contrast, it’s perhaps no surprise that this past off season, the two friends who have played together since elementary school, chose completely different off-season routes to improve their respective games.
Dixon, after traditionally spending her summers playing in the club basketball system, elected to change things up and try out for Basketball B.C.’s provincial Under 17 team, a group she not only made, but wound up starting at point guard for, helping lead her province to a third-place finish at the national championships.
She wanted to, in her words, test herself in the more physical U.S. circuit, so she spent much of her offseason making long commutes south of the line where she played for Seattle’s Way To Win club team.
“They are completely different players, and it’s interesting that they chose completely different paths,” says Palmer.
For her part, playing in the U.S. has just amped Homer’s game up another notch, especially off the dribble.
“Constantly playing against girls from the states, my ball handling got a lot better with pressure on me,” says Homer, who through the early part of the season is averaging 26 points-per-game. “(Getting to the free throw line) is definitely a huge reward. If my shot is not dropping, and I know something is not working for me in a game, I know I can still get to the line.”
Palmer, in fact, has been tracking stats the past eight seasons, including through the Royals’ back-to-back B.C. titles in 2009-10 when it was led by the vaunted back court duo of Diana Lee (Boise State) and Kris Young (UBC). The numbers he’s been getting back put Homer in a class of her own.
“I have never had anyone shoot more than 200 free throws in a season,” says Palmer. “Homer got to the line 226 times last season. I don’t know if I have ever coached anyone as intense as Elisa. She is so determined and so focused. She is a perfectionist. If she shoots 9-of-10 from beyond the arc, she’ll come over to me and say ‘How did I miss that one?’”
That’s the fire. How about the ice?
Dixon has all the physical attributes of a great point guard, but the intangibles are what sets her apart.
“I have a calm demeanor and my teammates will look to me when things get frantic,” she says. “I like to think I am good at that. But I’ve really worked on my ball-handling, my all-round game, and being a leader on the court who can keep her team organized.”
Palmer is a little more succinct.
“Abby is every bit as driven (as Homer),” says Palmer. “But she just has ice in her veins. With her, you never know if you are up by 20 or down by 20. She has the same expressionless face. Some coaches might take that the wrong way. But I tell them all that she is totally in love with the game.”
And while Dixon and Homer have not yet been able to lead the Royals to a provincial championship title, both girls admit they are trying to follow through on the early inspiration provided them by both Lee and Young.
“I have wanted to be like Diana Lee,” says Dixon. “We haven’t won the provincial titles like her teams did, but being the starting point guard for the provincial team was a big boost for me and my confidence.”
Adds Dixon: “Diana and Kris have always been huge role models for me. They’ve worked with me a lot and they have been a huge motivation for me to accomplish what I have.”
So now, the dynamic duo have a clear path laid out in front of them, beginning with getting back to the provincials and moving past the first-round loss they suffered last March at the hands of the Maple Ridge Ramblers.
“That loss made me so hungry in the summer to get as good as I could for this season,” said Homer, “so that we can do some damage and try to win it.”
TELUS BASKETBALL CLASSIC
Burnaby South 62 Steveston-London 51
Handsworth 68 Rick Hansen 31
Brookswood 84 Van Tech 18
Riverside 56 Collingwood 22
Argyle 86 Centennial 24
York House 58 Archbishop Carney 36
Fleetwood Park 57 West Vancouver 36
St. Thomas Aquinas 54 Britannia 52
(at York House)
1:45 p.m. — Handsworth vs. York House
2:30 p.m. — Burnaby South vs. Brookswood
2:30 p.m. — Fleetwood Park vs. Argyle
3:30 p.m. — Riverside vs. St. Thomas Aquinas