University of Dayton sophomore guard Amber Deane (2) dribbles during an exhibition game against the University of Indianapolis, Friday, Nov. 1, at UD Arena. UD won 84-58. (Ethan Klosterman/Photo Editor)
By: Keith Raad – Staff Writer
“I wasn’t as consistent as I would have liked last year…I don’t want any wavering in my stats or game. I want to be able to contribute to the team and have my teammates depend on me every day.”
Those are eyebrow-raising words from the reigning Atlantic 10 Conference Rookie of the Year. But for sophomore guard Amber Deane, these words were just a preface for the 2013-2014 University of Dayton women’s basketball team’s season.
Only in her sophomore year, Deane has done something that no other Flyer basketball player in history has accomplished. She’s part of a team that was been ranked in the Associated Press preseason poll at No. 14.
“That’s what we worked for all of last year,” Deane said. “The alumni of this program have tried to do that. That’s just the tradition of Dayton…I think we definitely deserved it.”
Deane, from Lathrup Village, Mich., played and started in all 31 of Dayton’s games last season, averaging 9.9 points and 4.7 rebounds. She also led the A10 with a field goal percentage of .556. Dayton went 28-3 and earned a 7-seed in the NCAA Tournament, falling in the second round to the 2nd seeded University of Kentucky 84-70.
Even with UD ranked No. 14 in the nation, Deane’s work ethic is ceaseless.
“We still come in with that chip on our shoulder,” Deane said. “We know we’re still looked at as a mid-major and we want to make a lot of noise this year and do the things we knew we could have done last year.”
Losing to the Wildcats in the second round of the tournament a season ago was nothing but frustrating for Deane.
“It was a bittersweet feeling losing to Kentucky, we didn’t feel as though we should have,” she said.
The losing part tied into another positive growing point for Dayton. Deane has confidence that her team can beat anybody. But it’s another enemy that had the Flyers’ number in a few games last year.
“We beat ourselves – plain and simple,” Deane said. “Each game, whether it was [Bowling Green State University] or Kentucky, offensively and defensively, we could have done so many things better.”
Highlighted in the A10 Tournament semifinal loss to St. Joseph’s University, Deane’s message about the Flyers beating themselves came to fruition.
“We can become complacent,” she said. “That was a little bit of an issue for us, and we didn’t look past them, we just didn’t take them as seriously as we should have.”
Looking to change that mentality and only get better, Deane’s strong winning attitude stems from some of her upperclassmen teammates, mostly from the leadership of senior forward Cassie Sant.
“She stops practice and tells us exactly how she feels,” Deane said of Sant. “She’ll pull us each to the side and tell us, ‘we deserve better, and you deserve better.’”
The freshman class brings the same attitude with them, she said.
Celeste Edwards, a four-star prospect by ESPN HoopGurlz, came to Dayton from Indianapolis, Ind., ranked No. 47 overall. Andrijana Cvitkovic is another four-star prospect out of Croatia, and Saicha Grant-Allen out of Hamilton, Ontario, is a three-star prospect.
“They challenge us as well,” Deane said. “They’re very, very talented and are one of the best recruiting classes in the country and it shows.”
For Dayton to gain another level of national recognition, they will have to prove it on the road this season. In its non-conference schedule, Dayton will play four of its eleven games on the road.
Topping the 2012-13 season will be a tall order, but the business-minded mentality of the Flyers has already welcomed the season with optimism and confidence. It showed in head coach Jim Jabir’s comments to the crowd at the Red-Blue scrimmage in which Jabir said, “As you can see, we’re a lot better than last year.”
After a 28-3 season, the clean-slated record and the new ranking have the team in a mode where it plans to try and always impress.
“We know our expectations are high,” Deane said. “But we hold ourselves accountable as well.”