By: Steven Wright- Sports Editor
“The pace. The structure of it, and just the overall mission.”
University of Dayton men’s basketball redshirt junior guard Jordan Sibert said these factors describe the difference between his current and former schools prior to the start of his first season at UD.
Sibert transferred to Dayton from The Ohio State University in 2012 after spending his first two years in Columbus, Ohio.
After sitting out last season per NCAA transfer rules, he began his first of two eligible seasons at UD by starting 31 games for the Flyers, averaging less than 26 minutes of action, and leading the team in scoring at 12.5 points per game.
Now at the end of his first season at Dayton, his old and current teams will collide in a second round matchup of the NCAA tournament, Thursday, March 20, at the First Niagara Arena in Buffalo, N.Y.
“Definitely exciting,” Sibert said. “Definitely a blessing to be able to compete again at a high level and definitely against Ohio State. I already texted one of my friends who played there.”
Sibert is still well aware of his connection to the Buckeyes. Most notably, Sibert was on the same AAU team, All-Ohio Red, as Ohio State senior guard Aaron Craft, which won a national championship.
“I talk to him every now and then,” Craft said. “I haven’t talked to him recently though.”
A former first team All-Ohio as a senior in high school, Sibert did not see the floor much at Ohio State, averaging 11.4 minutes for its Final Four team in 2012.
As a sophomore, Sibert found himself in a battle with current OSU senior guard Lenzelle Smith Jr. for a starting spot, but lost the battle and remained an off the bench player.
“Just like with any of these other guys, we were brothers. We were teammates,” Smith Jr. said. “We had one another in hard times. I don’t know, I guess things didn’t pan out for him really as well as they did for me. I guess I was just the fortunate one to get that starting position and remain here and play on this Buckeyes team. … Then again, I’m sure he’s happy with his decision and he’s looking forward to playing us.”
His shooting performance did not help Sibert’s cause to breaking into a bigger role in the lineup. He ended 2012 going 30.4 percent from the field and 26 percent behind the arc.
Getting a year to train while sitting out, finding his stroke again may be the biggest improvement he’s made. Sibert is shooting 43.9 percent from three this season, higher than anyone on his former squad.
“I’ve watched Dayton play this year,” OSU head coach Thad Matta said Sunday, March 16, when asked about Sibert’s improved play. “I think percentage-wise, Jordan is much higher there than he was here. In terms of Arch, I don’t know, I have to take a look at it just to see if there’s anything that is common.”
Matta said he hasn’t thought about any motivation Sibert may have going against his former school because he knows he’s doing what he needs to and enjoys seeing guys who are happy with their situations.
Smith Jr. said he can see where Sibert may have some extra incentive to play well.
“Trying to put myself in his shoes, absolutely,” Smith Jr. said. “At the same time, we’re both in the same boat. You lose, you go home. So I think we’ll both be playing jacked up for the same purpose.”
Sibert is one of several connections Dayton has going into the game with Ohio State. Head coach Archie Miller, along with assistant coach Kevin Kuwik, are both former assistants under Matta. Sophomore forwards Jalen Robinson and Devon Scott both played at Columbus Northland High School, alongside former OSU forward Jared Sullinger.
Miller said none of that will matter when the game tips off.
“A guy like Jordan, obviously being there at one point in time will appreciate it and I think he’ll want to play well and he’ll play with a chip on his shoulder, but at the end of the day, it’s really about our players versus their players on a given day.”
Along with the mission, Sibert there’s more of a day-by-day attitude at UD than Ohio State.
The first day of Sibert’s first regular season at Dayton began with a bang by hitting the game-winning 3-pointer in the final seconds against Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne. Now he may be looking to make the first game of his postseason with UD a similar experience.
“When I saw our name pop up, I was just excited to experience this with my teammates,” Sibert said. “You know, we all worked hard this year and it’s been a tremendous year for us and just be able to get into the tournament, it was a blessing. Then seeing it was against Ohio State, I’ve seen people talking about a battle for Ohio. Just the whole thing, especially with me being a transfer from there, it’s just exciting.”