By: Jonathan Kostoff – Staff Writer
Kendall Pollard is no stranger to big stages.
A three-time high school state champion, a major part of an Elite 8 run in his freshman year, and a career high 26 points in Friday’s quarterfinal game against St. Bonaventure is Brooklyn’s stunning Barclay’s Center.
“He’s a soft spoken kid but he’s very competitive,” head coach Archie Miller said. “He loves to win. He’s been a part of a lot of winning before he got to us and he’s been a big reason why we’ve been able to win a lot of games since he got here.”
Pollard knows there are a lot of fun places to play, but Brooklyn is right there atop the list.
“I love Brooklyn, it’s one of my favorite cities,” Pollard said. “It’s always fun to play here.”
He was not only playing in front of the Flyer faithful, but in front of family, including his mom and friends who made the trip to the Big Apple this weekend.
Early in the game he knew that it could be a special night with his aggression on St. Bonaventure’s post players, especially 7-footer Youssou Ndoye.
“I had a chip on my shoulder coming into tonight, but just wanted to go out there and have fun,” Pollard said about winning the Atlantic 10 Conference’s Most Improved Player Tuesday, but not making the first, second, or honorable mention teams.
Miller also thinks he’s better than people give him credit for, saying, “I think he’s one of the best players in this conference. He’s been an ironman for us. He goes up against guys like Ndoye and just competes.”
He has his mind set on winning a conference championship Sunday and making the all-tournament team. Dayton has not won a conference tournament since 2003 when tournament MOP Ramod Marshall and company defeated Temple 79-73.
Pollard brought fans to their feet with a jaw-dropping, two-hand slam over Denzel Gregg just over five minutes into the game. The “poster” dunk, that surely will be on Sportscenter’s Top 10 and hung up in young Flyers fans’ bedrooms, is just another addition to his extensive list.
“Since I was on my left side, I didn’t know I was going to do, but I finished the play,” Pollard said of the acrobatic jam.
Pollard knows that his teammates feed off is energy and hustle. Flexing his biceps, shoulder bumping with teammate Kyle Davis, screaming after making big play after big play, and sticking his tongue out were just some of the on-court antics Pollard exhibited during his career night.
A dunk like tonight’s, in the same building that hosted the 2015 NBA Slam Dunk Contest in February, would’ve surely turned some of the NBA’s brightest star’s heads, but Pollard doesn’t think he’s ready yet.
“It’s really fun going in and finishing aggressively, but a dunk contest I’m not ready for that quite yet,” Pollard said jokingly.
Maybe Pollard isn’t ready to dunk with the NBA’s finest, but he’s been a highlight waiting to happen, soaring time and time again over the rim.
One thing is sure. As much as Pollard loves dunking, he loves winning more, and an A-10 title is one highlight he hasn’t gotten yet.