With Villanova coming off its second national basketball championship in three years, it's easy to see why Abington's Eric Dixon wants to be part of the program.
The 6-foot-7, 260-pound junior forward, a four-star prospect according to ESPN, gave an oral commitment to the Wildcats in a Tuesday afternoon news conference in the Abington High auditorium.
The Willow Grove resident chose the Wildcats, who defeated Michigan by 79-62 for their third national crown, over runner-up Virginia. Seton Hall and Louisville were also among his finalists.
"It really came down to the overall culture at Villanova, wanting to be part of that community, and there being no better program in the country." Dixon said. "There's really no reason to wait on a better offer or anything like that. Villanova is as good as it gets."
An inside-outside scoring threat, Dixon averaged 24 points, 9.5 rebounds, and 1.5 blocked shots last season as Abington went 24-6, earned its third PIAA District 1 title in four seasons, and reached the Class 6A state quarterfinals.
Dixon totaled 25 points, including 16 in the third quarter, as the Ghosts stormed back and stunned Plymouth Whitemarsh in the district final at Temple's Liacouras Center.
Villanova offered Dixon a scholarship last November. "They started evaluating him in the latter part of his sophomore season," said his father, also Eric. The younger Dixon was also joined at the ceremony by his mother, Jean, and his 5-year-old brother, Charles.
On Feb. 20, with Villanova head coach Jay Wright in the stands, Dixon scored 19 points as host Abington cruised past Suburban One League National Conference rival Neshaminy.
Of the Wildcats, the 17-year-old said, "They just want me to work hard at getting better between now and the time I get there, and get a little slimmer and quicker."
The strong recruiting abilities of Wright; Ashley Howard, a former Wildcats assistant who was introduced as La Salle's new coach on April 8; and Villanova's other coaches played a considerable part in Dixon's choice to play on the Main Line.
Dixon becomes the third Southeastern Pennsylvania player to commit to Villanova in the last two years. Guard Collin Gillespie (Archbishop Wood) and forward Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree (Neumann-Goretti) were freshman reserves on this year's squad.
"Eric's hard work and dedication allowed him to get to this point," Abington coach Charles Grasty said. "I know he's going to work his tail off to become an impact player at Villanova."
Eric's father said he does not expect the Wildcats to make his son a redshirt player as a freshman. "They want Eric to play right away," he said. "Six of their current top eight players won't be with the team when he gets there. But they've also told him that he's going to have put in a lot of work on his own in the next year or so if he wants to play right away."
Last summer, Dixon was among the final cuts in tryouts for USA Basketball's 16-and-under squad in Colorado Springs, Colo.
With 1,616 career points, Dixon ranks third on Abington's all-time list. He is only 66 points shy of eclipsing the record set by Richard Wright in 1975. Dixon, who has a 6-11 wing span, also visited Georgetown, Oklahoma State, Pittsburgh, and Rutgers, among others.
In February, Villanova gained a commitment from Jahvon Quinerly, a senior point guard and five-star prospect from Hudson Catholic in Jersey City, N.J. He averaged 18.5 points during his senior season. The Wildcats' class of 2018 recruits also includes 6-7 forward Cole Swider of St. Andrew's in Rhode Island and 6-6 wing Brandon Slater of Paul VI in Virginia.