Monica Dixon, seated center, will play basketball next year for the Division II Elizabeth City State program. Others in the photo are, left to right: seated, Dixon’s grandmother Hilda Reels, mother Mona Mathis, aunt Deloris Murrell; standing, East Carteret Principal Katherine Steele, basketball coach Tod Morgan, AAU coach Jason Woodin and Assistant Principal Juanita Russell. (Contributed photo)

BEAUFORT — Elizabeth City State started recruiting Monica Dixon during her junior season and that early work paid off.

The recent graduate signed a scholarship with the Vikings after putting up one of the best careers in East Carteret girls basketball history.

“I kept my options open but I was set on them pretty early,” she said. “I visited at the beginning of the school year and it was a perfect visit. Everything went right.”

Dixon said members of the team and school killed her with kindness.

“I had my mind set on them because of how they treated me,” she said. “They treated me like family right when I hit the campus, and it never stopped. Everybody I ran into, it never stopped. They made me feel like more than just a basketball player.”

And the love didn’t end there. She received a call or a text nearly every day during the school year. That was just the icing on the cake, however, as she decided to attend the Division II historically black college before the season started.

“I wanted that recruiting process to be over,” she said. “It took a lot of stress off of me.”

Her relaxed state of mind helped her lead East to one of its best seasons in school history.

The Mariners went to their first-ever east regional final after advancing to the regional semifinal for the first time since 2000. They also captured a 1A/2A Coastal 8 Conference Tournament championship and finished the season 23-4.

A two-time News-Times Player of the Year, she put up two performances that won’t soon be forgotten in the playoffs, going for 25 points in a 53-50 win over Weldon in the regional semifinal after going for 32 points, 11 rebounds and five steals in a 58-38 victory over Princeton in the third round.

She averaged 25.2 points and 8.2 rebounds in five rounds of the playoffs after putting up 21.4 points and 8.5 rebounds per game during the regular season.

“It was a magical run,” East coach Tod Morgan said. “She’s one of the better players in school history. She’s near the top in scoring. She’s one of the best to ever play here and is likely a future Hall of Famer.”

Dixon solidified her standing as one of the best female players in county history as early as her junior year. She went for 19.1 points and 7.6 rebounds per game that season. Versus Trask, she put her name in the county record book with 46 points in a 76-48 win.

Mindy Ballou Fitzpatrick held the previous record for points in a game by a girls player with 44 points in her 1981-1982 senior season at West Carteret.

This past season, Dixon nearly hit 1,500 career points and surpassed 500 career rebounds.

“They need someone to score the basketball at Elizabeth City State and she can certainly do that,” Morgan said. “She’s so talented. I think it will be a good fit for her. She is from a small coastal community and a small school and its kind of like that up there, where you know everybody. It will be a comfortable spot for her.”

Second-year coach Antonio Davis led Elizabeth City State to a 16-16 record this past season to give the Vikings their first .500 record since the 2011-12 season when they went 24-5.

The squad finished the regular season on a seven-game losing streak before going on a run in the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) Tournament. The six seed won three games before falling in the semifinals. Three of the top four scorers will return from that team.

“I’ll have to work hard for a spot,” Dixon said. “They will have a lot of seniors this year. I might be on the bench a lot as a freshman. I’ll have to learn to get comfortable there.”

Fayetteville State, UNC-Pembroke and Cape Fear Community College recruited Dixon as did a number of out-of-state schools including Chicago State.

“I didn’t really consider the out-of-state schools,” she said. “Those were too far from home.”

Instead, she will have a little home away from home at Elizabeth City State. Her brother Paul, a former East basketball player, will be a sophomore there this fall.

“He’s really excited for me to be up there with him,” Dixon said.

Morgan has seen the importance of family for the standout student-athlete who sported a 3.05 GPA in high school and plans on majoring in criminal justice in college.

“Having family there will be big for her,” he said. “Her mom has had a big influence on her. She’s so supportive and always made sure her academics were right. I know that will continue. She’ll do well in the classroom and I think she will be able to get on the floor too.”

Dixon will also have an area player to learn the ropes with as a freshman. NyAsia Blango, who scored almost 1,400 points and dished out more than 500 assists in a four-year career at Havelock, will also be a freshman with the Vikings after signing a scholarship.

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