Friday, December 04, 2020

Sports Person of the Week

Dickson Delivers on Two Courts for the Warriors

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Senior point guard JT Dickson was always willing to put in the effort improve, while helping his teammates get better in the process, as a member of the Valley Regional boys’ basketball team. JT was also named the Most Improved Player for the Warriors’ boys’ tennis squad last spring. Photo courtesy of JT Dickson

Senior point guard JT Dickson was always willing to put in the effort improve, while helping his teammates get better in the process, as a member of the Valley Regional boys’ basketball team. JT was also named the Most Improved Player for the Warriors’ boys’ tennis squad last spring. (Photo courtesy of JT Dickson )

JT Dickson showed his skills as a hardworking guard for the Valley Regional boys’ basketball team throughout the past four years. JT, a senior, ran the point guard position efficiently as a member of the Warriors’ deep bench unit. In his junior year, JT joined the Valley boys’ tennis team and earned its most Improved Player Award, after which he was named a senior captain for the 2020 campaign.

Looking back at his final season on the basketball court, JT says that he will always remember his Senior Night performance against Morgan. JT turned in one of the best nights of his career, while feeding off the energy in the gym during a 59-34 victory for Valley Regional.

“That Senior Night against Morgan was probably one of the best games I’ve played for Valley. All my friends and family, my fellow students, and teachers came out to see us that night,” JT says. “Everyone was playing their best game, and it was just such a fun game to play. I remember specifically getting an ‘and-1’ layup with three or four seconds left in the first half. The gym went crazy after that. I still have that video saved on my phone.”

JT served as one of the primary ball handlers off the Warriors’ bench. While fellow senior Cade Ensinger played point guard most of the time, JT was another weapon for Valley with the rock in his hands, allowing Ensinger to play more of an off-ball guard position. JT proved a natural fit at point guard throughout his career.

“I was always the shortest kid of the group. So, I had to play one of the two guard spots. Growing up, I wasn’t much of a scorer, and being a point guard was a better option to me. I’m athletic and can facilitate really well and get other people open shots,” says JT, who is 5-foot-8. “I think I excel at getting to basket and kicking out to the open man. When I drive to the hoop if the big man steps up and tries to help, our big will be able to get an open layup. I find it easier to attack the hole and find an open man.”

JT’s offensive skillset was based on his ability to get around defenders and drive into the paint. Still, JT worked on expanding his range, along with his variety of moves, in order to become more of a threat on offense.

“Most of the time, I thought of it as just trying to find a way to get to the basket and make a pass. But if you have an open shot on the outside, you have to take it,” JT says. “Another part of my game that I put a lot of work into was a pull-up shot off of the dribble drive. I didn’t want the defense to know that I was going to go to the hoop and pass out all the time. I wanted to have some variation in my game.”

JT is also a staunch defender on the perimeter. Head Coach Kevin Woods always preaches defense, and that philosophy gave JT a chance to shine on that end of the floor.

“I’ve always taken great pride in playing defense. It’s the one part of the game that the effort you put in is what makes you great at it. It’s not a ton of skill,” says JT, who lives in Deep River. “It’s the hardest-working players that are the best defenders. Even the best players on the other team, if I put my all into defending them, I could do a good job.”

Coach Woods could always count on JT to bring his best to the Warriors’ court. Woods especially enjoyed JT’s effort during practice, because he knows that’s how athletes learn how to become better basketball players.

“JT brought intensity. He was a good defender and instant energy off the bench. He made us better every day at practice. If you can make your teammates better, you’re doing the right things,” Woods says. “I’m sure JT didn’t have the role he imagined, but he still had a big role, and he was good at it. I would have loved to have seen what he brought to the State Tournament. He worked hard and forced me to play him. He made the most of what he has, and he has a lot. I wish I had him one more year.”

JT has received a great wave of support from his Valley-area coaches over the course of his career. In addition to Woods, JT thanks Steve Kleiman, his AAU coach with the Valley Basketball Club, for his support. JT, who also plays tennis for the Warriors, is grateful to boys’ coach Callie Riggio and girls’ coach Sally Riggio for how much they’ve helped him.

JT was inspired to take up tennis after seeing his great uncle Ozzie Swett continue to play into his 70s. When JT decided to pick up the racquet for the first time, there was a lot to learn. JT came a long way during his junior campaign, and that’s why he was named the team’s Most Improved Player.

“It was my first year, and I played against people who had been playing their whole lives. Coach Sally and Coach Callie helped me a lot with technique,” JT says. “I practiced every day and worked really hard. Being able to string together a couple of wins at the end of the year was something that I’m really proud of. It felt nice that my hard work had paid off.”

Although basketball and tennis are vastly different sports, JT found that some of the skills he learned were beneficial on both courts.

“The lateral speed you need on defense to play basketball, you need to be able to go line to line in tennis,” says JT. “The condition and endurance you need are similar, even though the skills-related play in basketball and tennis are very different.”

JT feels proud to wear the captain’s hat for the tennis team and hopes that he gets a chance to lead the Warriors this spring. Either way, JT will still be able to fondly reminisce about all the years that he spent playing alongside the same group of guys on the hardwood.

“The fact that we had such a large group play together for so long was really fun and something I’ll look back on and be proud of. We all worked on this season for over 10 years now. I think we played really well as a group, and it’s sad to see it end,” JT says. “Being a leader on the tennis court was something I was definitely looking forward to. I don’t know what’s going to happen, but being named captain is nice.”


Chris Negrini is the Assistant Sports Editor for Zip06. Email Chris at c.negrini@shorepublishing.com.

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