MEN’S BASKETBALL: OLIVER NOT AFRAID TO LET EMOTIONS SHOW
UD senior forward Devin Oliver (5) dunks during a game against George Washington, Saturday, Feb 1, 2014, at UD Arena. UD won 75-65. (San Kumar/ Staff Photographer)
By: Steven Wright – Sports Editor
It’s easy to see Devin Oliver wears his emotions more than anyone else on the court.
The 6-foot-7-inch, 225-pound senior forward from Kalamazoo, Mich., can regularly be seen making motions with his arms toward the crowd and be heard encouraging teammates on the court during games.
Recently, the clock hitting zero has brought out the most in Oliver expressing his feelings.
Following a win against George Washington University, Saturday, Feb. 1, at UD Arena, he threw his arms into the air, celebrating the end of the University of Dayton men’s basketball team’s four-game losing streak.
But in the game before facing Saint Joseph’s University on Jan. 29, SJU senior guard Langston Galloway hit a game winning 3-pointer with 1.8 seconds remaining to give UD its fourth loss in a row. That day, Oliver slammed the ball into the floor with one arm after it bounced his way while walking off the floor.
Both instances show what this season means to him.
“I’ve been playing with a lot of emotions just because it’s my last year,” Oliver said. “The St. Joe’s game was a tough one. It was just frustrating because as a team, I felt like we fought to come all the way back, and we played extremely hard.”
Do his parents approve? The range of emotions he goes through, especially after a loss that was hard to take, is alright with them, according to Oliver.
“They kind of just let me go sometimes,” he said. “They’ll mention it to me and just kind of ask what was going through my mind. I think they knew with that one it was just that we put our all into the game.”
The negativity is kept to a minimum though by a guy who remains as positive as Oliver.
Redshirt senior guard Vee Sanford, who is co-captain along with Oliver on this year’s team, said it’s easy for him and his teammates to feed off the positive energy that gravitates around Oliver.
“It’s great. [Devin] has been expressing it a lot as far as getting up and staying up,” Sanford said. “He’s been doing that and showing it as an example by playing hard and filling up the stat sheet. Guys take into that and are aspired to play hard as well. I feel like he’s done a great job showing that example.”
Looking at the stat sheet shows how hard he’s been working too.
In Dayton’s first 22 games this season, Oliver leads the team in scoring at 12.4 points per game, as well as rebounding at seven per game. He’s also shooting career highs in his field goal, 3-point and free throw percentages at 54.7, 42.9 and 76.2, respectively.
All of that comes from growth head coach Archie Miller said he has seen since his arrival at UD.
According to Miller, Oliver has grown from his original “skinny” self into someone with much more bulk in his body and in the way he plays.
“He’s physical, he can put the ball on the floor,” Miller said. “He’s always rebounding. Now you add the element where’s he’s a little more confident with his skill set on the shot, he’s a pretty good player.”
Miller said he sees Oliver learning from every film session and that he is crucial to his team’s success.
Winning in college basketball comes down to how the most experienced guys on a roster are playing, according to Miller. He said along with Sanford, a lot of things start with Oliver.
“He is a very good leader, one of the best guys I’ve been around in terms of bringing it every single day,” Miller said. “He continues to work at it, he just has to stay with it. I suspect he’ll be a big reason why we win or lose.”
Being a quiet leader can be a difficult task though, and Oliver is anything but quiet, according to Miller.
“The thing about him is he’s not a rah-rah guy in a players face, so to speak,” Miller said. “We dont’ have that, ‘you deal with me if things aren’t going well’ type of a player. But he is a guy that’s there everyday. He’s a guy that’s very coachable. He’s very positive with his teammates.”
Against GW, Oliver hit two early 3-pointers in the game to help push Dayton out to an early lead that it would not relinquish. During the run, he said he waived his arms toward the crowd to get them going. He felt more energy was needed in UD Arena from fans at that time.
He said those actions and the crowd’s response helped his team get going from there and on its way to a victory.
As his senior season continues, Oliver appears to have learned how to properly express his emotional state at any given point during a game.
He said the extra energy he exerts is something he wouldn’t mind seeing more from his teammates on the court too. As long as it doesn’t become detrimental to the team.
“As long as guys are playing as hard as they possibly can, whatever their way of getting themselves going with whatever works for them is fine with me,” he said.