During his prep and collegiate career, former Tennessee basketball player Dyron Nix (1985-89), who died Sunday in Atlanta, lived a life characterized by a burning desire to be the best in whatever he undertook.
He was a legendary player at Fort Walton Beach (Fla.) High School, where his No. 31 jersey still hangs in the Vikings’ gymnasium.
When he came to the University of Tennessee, playing for coach Don DeVoe, he kept that number and likewise left a unique imprint on the Vol program.
“Dyron was the type guy who, if you didn’t bring your ‘A’ game, would let you know. He was so competitive he wanted everybody to be as competitive as he was,” said teammate Mark Griffin.
“He would challenge you by telling you he was going left, then doing it. He was probably one of the best athletes I guarded, including opponents. He exuded confidence. When he wanted to play, you couldn’t stop him.”
Mr. Nix finished his Tennessee career in good company, as the eighth leading scorer in Vol history with 1,877 points, 16.6 points per game, 85 points behind Bernard King and 40 points ahead of Vincent Yarbrough.
He led the SEC in rebounding (10.1) as a sophomore, then paced the league in scoring (22.2) as a junior. He had a career-high 40 points against Tennessee Tech and 20 rebounds against Chattanooga, both games in 1988.
He had 126 blocked shots in 113 games for his career and 34 double-doubles, both marks fourth best all-time. He was named to the Vols’ All-Century Team in 2009.
“He was a go-to guy inside,” said former Vol broadcaster John Ward, “a quality player who was consistent and made a difference.”
“You could count on him to compete,” said former teammate Clarence Swearengen, who will serve as a pallbearer at Mr. Nix’s funeral. “He was an awesome leader, a good guy who cared about his team.”
Swearengen also said that, after a year with the Indiana Pacers in the NBA and nine or 10 years playing in Europe, Mr. Nix worked restoring houses and seemed to be doing “pretty well.”
During his career at Tennessee, there were even opposing fans who were convinced Mr. Nix was a Prince look-alike, right down the hair style.
“We were at Alabama, and the band was playing Prince songs during warm-ups,” said Griffin.
That did not upset Mr. Nix, not in the least, said Griffin.
“He loved the attention,” said Griffin.
Services will be Thursday at 11 a.m. at Destiny Metropolitan Worship Center, 1775 Water Place SE, in Atlanta.