Dayton Flyers senior guard JaVonna Layfield expects to have a personal cheering section numbering 30-33 people at the KFC Yum! Center on Friday for the first round of the NCAA tournament.
Layfield, a Louisville native, was able to secure tickets for her immediate family. The rest of the group — including her high school, middle school and AAU coaches, plus her high school principal and another teacher who’s taking a personal day to attend the game — will have to buy tickets.
As much as Layfield will enjoy the moment, she’s putting the focus on the game, a 2:30 p.m. matchup against No. 8 seed Marquette, and not her personal story.
“It’s not about me playing at home,” Layfield said Thursday before practice. “It’s not about me being in front of family. I mean, it’s exciting, but at the end of the day, I have a job to do, and that’s what we’re here to do.”
Layfield’s fans should see her break a Dayton record. She enters the game with 374 rebounds. Ann Meyers has owned the single-season record of 377 since her freshman season in 1976-77.
“That is great company,” Layfield said.
Layfield had no idea she was close to that mark, but said rebounding has always been a big part of her game.
“In high school, I was known for it,” she said. “I had my first 20-rebound game in my sophomore year in high school. That’s the only time I’ve had 20 rebounds. Just go get the ball; that’s what I’ve always done. It’s really just hustle. That’s what rebounding is about it. It’s not even technique. If I can get the inside position while I’m trying to get the offensive rebound, it helps me out. Other than, it’s just saying, ‘I’m going to get the ball,’ and going to get the ball.”
Layfield increased her rebounding average from 7.6 to 12.9 this season. She still has a chance to break Meyers’ single-season rebounding average record of 13.0.
The 5-foot-11 Layfield ranks fourth in the country in rebounding average. Everyone else in the top 15 is at least 6-0.
“Last year, she did it at a high level,” Dayton coach Shauna Green said, “and this year she’s been rebounding at an elite level. When you talk about her being in the top four or five in the country of rebounding at 5-10 — we just measured ourselves in the hallway, and I am taller than her; I’m 6-0, so she’s under my size — it’s amazing. What she does is amazing at her height. I can’t teach it. I wish I could sit here and say that we taught her it. We didn’t. She has an innate ability to pursue the ball, and she has an unbelievable knack for just making a read. We need her to do that at an elite level in order for us to win games, and we’re going to need her to do that tomorrow if we’re going to win this game.”