Devin Oliver doesn’t want to seem rude when he waves off compliments about his breakout season last year. The kind words are nice, but he’s just not as enthused about his production as others seem to be.
The 6-foot-7 junior from Kalamazoo, Mich., helped the University of Dayton basketball team weather the blow of losing star forward Josh Benson just before the start of Atlantic 10 play. Oliver really blossomed over the final nine games, averaging nine points and nearly seven rebounds. He shot 53.7 percent from the field and made 19-of-21 free throws.
“I’ve had a lot of people tell me I had a good second half of the year, but I didn’t think it was even half of what I can bring to the table,” he said.
Oliver’s motivation to improve has been evident in how he’s attacked his offseason training. While nearly every Flyer has bulked up since last season, the change in Oliver’s once-wiry frame has been the most noticeable.
“He’s gained 19 pounds since last season,” UD coach Archie Miller said. “I think he can play at no less than 220 — 15 pounds heavier than last year, which would be a big step for him. I think all of our guys have gotten stronger.”
One area that still gnaws at Oliver is his perimeter shooting. He went 13 games before making a 3-pointer and finished just 7-of-33 from the arc.
“That’s been the biggest focus this offseason besides being a bigger player, a stronger player,” Oliver said. “The rebounding is going to always be there. I’ll continue to play defense. But I want to improve everything in every area, particularly my shooting.”
The Flyers have been conducting basketball practices three days a week this summer under new NCAA rules. And Miller said the most impressive player has been senior point guard Kevin Dillard, which is no great surprise.
“He’s supremely motivated, as much as any guy I’ve been around in a long time,” Miller said. “He’s strong. He’s very confident. And he’s really bought into some of the development things from last year and how to be a better player.”
The second-team all-league pick was a competent 3-point shooter and an excellent driver, but Miller wants his star to stretch himself even more offensively.
“We’re working on a secondary shot, which is a running one-hander — not get all the way to the basket, not shoot a long one. Do you have something in between that can take you to another level?” Miller said.
UD director of ticketing Gary McCans planned to retire this summer after 44 years on the job. But with a new round of the Arena Seating Program being launched and the NCAA First Four and second- and third-round games being held at UD Arena this season, the school decided it couldn’t afford to let him go.
He’ll remain in his old role until January. The UD alum also has been named the Arena Events Service Manager, overseeing ticket takers, ushers, security and other part-time workers at Flyer athletic events, which is a nine-month position.
He’s being replaced by Adam Tschuor, who was the Ball State director of tickets. “I looked forward to coming into work every day because it was something new, never the same thing,” said McCans, 66. “Just working with the Dayton fans, it was really enjoyable.”
The Philadelphia native is the last UD staffer on the payroll before UD Arena opened in 1969. He was hired by the late Tom Frericks, the athletic director then.
“I graduated in ’68. It was right in the middle of the Viet Nam war. I couldn’t find a job because I didn’t have my military service out of the way,” he said. “I had my bags packed and shipped my trunk and a lot of clothes back to Philadelphia. I was heading home.
“But he said they were going to be building the arena and were looking for someone to help sell the tickets and said, ‘Would you be interested?’ I said, ‘Yeah, sure.’ I think my first-year salary was like $5,800.”
McCans had a short stint in the marketing department but went back to ticket sales. “I really missed dealing with the UD fans,” he said.
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