He inherited a Big 12 Conference program, but with a record that didn’t attract top talent.
Dixon and his staff developed a two-pronged recruiting strategy: focus on Texas, especially the metroplex, and look outside the box, said assistant head coach David Patrick.
In this case, instead of trying to compete nationally, the Horned Frogs went global.
Patrick is from Australia and that was the first stop. He played professionally for the Canberra Cannons of the National Basketball League from 1999-01 and was named Rookie of the Year in 2000. He’s coached at Saint Mary’s in Moraga, California and LSU.
Some of his college recruits have gone on to play in the NBA – most recently his godson Ben Simmons who played under him at LSU. Simmons was the No.1 overall draft pick by the Philadelphia 76ers in the 2016 NBA draft.
The Simmons connection attracted redshirt freshman forward Kouat Noi.
“I look up to Ben Simmons a lot,” he said. “I used to remember when we used to play NBA 2K growing up when we were 11 years old and for me to follow the same path he’s following and for DP to be a mentor for me as well, I feel like I’m heading in the right direction now.”
New Zealand is also part of the game plan. Big man Angus McWilliam, a 6’11” center from New Zealand who graduates in the spring, has committed.
Dixon played professional basketball in New Zealand for the Hawke’s Bay Hawks from 1989-1990. While at Pittsburgh, he recruited Steven Adams – now the starting center for the Oklahoma City Thunder – from New Zealand.
Patrick said the lifestyle in DFW is also compatible to that of the players they target from Australia.
“I think what’s unique about Dallas-Fort Worth is it’s similar: It’s a big city with people who are easy to get along with because it’s not an east coast city or west coast city where it’s going 100 miles an hour.”
Accessibility is also key.
“We have direct flights to Melbourne and direct flights to Sydney, and that makes it easier when you’re traveling and your parents can come on a direct flight to see you play,” Patrick said.
But in the end, it’s the investment in TCU basketball that has made Fort Worth a basketball destination.
“When you’re pitching TCU and a great institution, Power Five school in the Big 12, you get to play for a great coach in Jamie Dixon that has a resume that speaks for itself, it’s an easy sell,” Patrick said. “Now you have these brand new facilities that are available to them, so it’s an easy sell to be honest.”
With that being said, the Horned Frogs have become an international team as a third of the roster was born outside of the United States: senior forward Vladimir Brodziansky hails from Slovakia, freshman forward Lat Mayen and Noi are Australians, senior forward Ahmed Hamdy is from Egypt and freshman center Kevin Samuel comes from Barbuda, an island in the Caribbean.
“I think the international pitch is a great and easy sell for us,” Patrick said.