The young guys of the Dayton Boys Preparatory Academy – many of them third graders, all of them wearing the purple polo shirts of their W. Third Street school – were up in the 300 Section at UD Arena on Thursday having a ball as they joined nearly 6,000 other southwest Ohio school kids for the annual Math Day basketball game featuring the University of Dayton women’s team.
As 8-year-old Nathaniel Isom held up the colorful Dayton Flyers poster he’d made at home Wednesday night, many of his buddies joined the rest of the kids in the crowd who were dancing “Gangum Style,” the pop hit by South Korean performer PSY that has become such an international craze.
When the music stopped and the gyrations ended the Prep Boys started talking about another “style” they all loved – the brand of ball played by the No. 17-ranked Flyers, who were in the process of dismantling George Washington, 80-52.
Each boy was deciding what he liked best about the UD women:
“I like how they help each other up.”
“They jump real high.”
“They do good lay-ups.”
Finally, a little guy leaned in and ventured a bit sheepishly: “They’re pretty.”
When the giggles and the jostling subsided, he and the others were asked which Flyer they liked the best.
There were votes for everybody from Sam MacKay and Olivia Applewhite to Andrea Hoover, but then 9-year-old Shaione Swanson stepped forward and was unwavering in his choice:
“No. 2. She got off some jumpers. … She’s goooood!”
As they say, out of the mouths of babes.
No. 2 is Amber Deane, the 5-foot-9 freshman guard who plays both with quickness and a bit of superstition, as she rolls the waist band of her uniform a couple of times until the bottoms of her shorts are up above her knees.
She’s been on quite a tear lately. Thursday she scored a game-high 22 points on 9-for-13 shooting from the floor – and added six rebounds, a pair of steals and an assist.
Over the past four games – all victories – she has averaged 17.3 points and 7.5 rebounds.
“We’ve always been smart, a kind of pick-you-apart team,” UD coach Jim Jabir said. “Amber brings an intelligence we haven’t had. She has a quickness. She reads things. She sees things. She steps into passing lanes and deflects a pass and gets a lay-up. She boards real well too for her size. She just brings an energy that’s really wonderful.
“Now, when she learns how to play hard ALL the time, she’s going to be a special, special dominant player.”
If genes have anything to do with it, she just may live up to such billing.
Her dad, George, played college basketball first at Grand Valley State and then Louisiana-Lafayette. Her older brother Jordan played at Tiffin and then Indiana Tech.
“They both really pushed me as a player,” Amber said. “My big brother – he’s three years older – everything he did I tried to do even though I knew it was impossible. He could jump higher, he was stronger, but I worked at it as if I could do it, too. And that definitely helped me.”
Thursday, as the cheers and squeals and roars of all those kids filled the Arena for almost two hours straight, Deane, who’s from Lathrup Village, Mich., just outside Detroit, admitted to having a bit of a deja vu moment:
“I loved hearing all those kids cheer for us. I went to a couple of day games — especially Michigan versus Michigan State — when I was a kid, too. I was the same as these kids were today. I remember screaming as loud as I could.”
As a middle school player she said she started rolling the waistband of her uniform pants.
“I don’t like my pants to touch my knees,” she laughed. “If they do I feel constricted. It’s like I can’t jump high or move quick. It holds me down.”
It certainly seems to be working.
Playing for Detroit Country Day, she was a two-time All-State first-team selection and led the Yellowjackets to the 2009 state title.
Although she was recruited by several schools, including Michigan State and Loyola (Ill.), she said she chose Dayton because she liked the coaches, the success of the program and the smaller size of the school.
To say she made a splash in her college debut is almost understatement. She made 6 of 7 shots and finished with 14 points in the opener against Mississippi Valley State and then came back a day later and made 10 of 13 shots for 27 points against DePaul.
“She was the MVP of that first tournament (the Maggie Dixon Classic in Chicago) and then she had a little bit of a lull,” said Jabir. “Freshmen do that. The hardest thing about leaning the college game is adjusting and adapting to the daily intensity.
“Now she’s put together three or four good games in a row and she’s showing that consistency we were hoping for.”
The whole team is showing itself well, said Megan Duffy, George Washington’s first-year associate head coach. Duffy starred at Chaminade Julienne High School, was a two-time All-Big East player at Notre Dame and then played in the WNBA for Minnesota and New York and overseas in Romania, Slovakia, Wales and Italy.
“Jim is doing a heck of a job here,” she said. “This being our first year at GW, we’ve got some rebuilding to do. But this is where we want to get to. One day we want to be where Dayton is at.
“And there’s terrific talent in this area. The high school talent is deep in southwest Ohio and Jim is able to get a lot of those kids.”
With five Flyers from southwest Ohio, several of the UD women had their own personalized cheering squads Thursday. Some even saw some of their old teachers in the crowd.
Lisa Mossing, a first-grade teacher from Beverly Gardens Elementary in Mad River who accompanied 140 kindergarten and first-grade kids to the game, thought the best thing of the day was “the fact that all these kids get to watch women playing basketball. It’s good for them to see that. Kids are saying, ‘Look how strong she is.’ Things like that.”
That – and more – is what the Prep Boys were saying one section over.
As Shaione Swanson made clear one more time: “No. 2, she’s real goooood!”
Not to be outdone, Nathaniel Isom expanded the scouting report:
“They’re all good.”