COLUMBIA — After sitting out for a second consecutive game, the big question for the Missouri men’s basketball team is whether or not suspended guard Michael Dixon Jr. will play against No. 12 Illinois on Wednesday.
Missouri coach Mike Anderson said last Wednesday that Dixon is suspended indefinitely for violating an unspecified team rule. Up until that point, Dixon had started every game for Missouri and was leading the team in assists.
"We have high standards for how we expect our young men to carry themselves," Anderson said in a statement on Wednesday. "Michael didn't meet those standards, therefore he is suspended indefinitely."
Since then, Missouri has played two opponents and easily won both games, an 81-62 victory over Oral Roberts on Thursday, and a 116-63 win over Central Arkansas on Saturday night.
But with Illinois looming right around the corner in the annual Busch Braggin’ Rights game in St. Louis, the question is if Anderson will lift the suspension for a game that the Tigers will need Dixon.
“With Dixon right now, we’ll allow him to practice,” Anderson said. “Haven’t decided on playing yet, but as of (Sunday), he will be reinstated in terms of practicing with our basketball team. He’s got some things he's got to do, and we’ll see what takes place from there.”
The Missouri players appear to be embracing Dixon like he is still on the floor playing. During the team’s introduction video, junior guard Kim English left the rest of Missouri’s starters, who were all sitting down on the bench, and went and put his arm around Dixon as the two watched the highlight video. And after each of the starters was introduced, each of them gave Dixon a fist bump before running through the tunnel of players.
“Mike’s doing great,” junior forward Laurence Bowers said. “He’s keeping his head in it, and he’s one of our biggest cheerleaders right now. It’s just something he’s got to learn from. He’s going to be back with us soon so you all just keep him in your prayers like we are, thank you.”
Bowers was then asked how soon.
“We can’t tell you how soon, that’s coach’s rules.”
Once the game started, Dixon showed why he is Missouri's "biggest cheerleader." After Missouri would score a basket, he was the first person to stand up off of the Missouri bench to celebrate. At the beginning of the game, after Missouri went out to an early 9-0 lead, Central Arkansas called a timeout, and Dixon was ecstatic. He ran out to the half-court line to give a fist pound to guard Marcus Denmon, who had scored five of those points.
After Missouri’s win against Oral Roberts, Anderson was much more sensitive to the subject about Dixon than he was on Saturday, and got frustrated with reporters when he was asked multiple times about it.
“Does anybody want to talk about the game?” You got the memo everybody else got,” Anderson said. “He's suspended indefinitely.”
For now, the only thing that is for sure is that Dixon will remain a “cheerleader.” At least until Wednesday.