Dayton coach Archie Miller doesn’t want to put any unnecessary pressure on Kevin Dillard, but Miller wants the point guard to know how vital his contributions are to the team’s success.
The 6-foot senior was mostly a distributor last season, getting the ball to skilled perimeter shooters. But the Flyers are counting on Dillard to create as many shots for himself as he does for others this year.
“You can tell when he doesn’t play well or he’s not in it, our team isn’t set right,” Miller said after the Flyers’ 83-61 win over Miami on Saturday night. “He took it upon himself after the Northern Illinois game (Dec. 1), he was ready, and he’s been ready every day since.
“He was in attack mode not only (Saturday), but Wednesday (at Alabama). The big thing is to continue to stay fresh, continue to keep working. He gives our team confidence. When he’s ready and playing well, our team follows suit, and I think he knows that.”
After putting together his two best games of the year, Dillard was recognized by ESPN.com as the college basketball national player of the week Sunday.
Showing clips of Dillard in action against the Crimson Tide, ESPN’s Andy Katz said: “We could have gone with Creighton’s Doug McDermott, who had 27 points in a rivalry win at Nebraska earlier in the week. And then there was Kevin Pangos’ drive for Gonzaga to win at Washington State. But we went with Dayton’s Kevin Dillard, who scored 25 points in a road win at Alabama. He also added 15 on Saturday in a victory over Miami of Ohio.
“Suddenly, the Dayton Flyers under Archie Miller are 7-2 and a surprise team in the Atlantic 10. Kevin Dillard, who transferred from Southern Illinois, has made his mark at Dayton.”
The Flyers returned only three other players from last season, and Dillard admits he needed some time getting accustomed to playing with so many newcomers.
But his scoring average has jumped from 13.3 to 15.2 this season, and he’s hitting 41 percent of his 3-pointers and 85.4 percent of his foul shots.
“It’s just a different group of guys,” he said. “Last year, I was pass first, pass second. And this year, as a leader, if we’re going to lapse, it’s my job to get us out of the lapse with scoring or whatever.
“It’s a growing process. We’ve just got to pushing each other every day and going hard, and if do that, the chemistry will be there.”
Said Miller: “Our team is getting better in general, but we have a long way to go. We’ll go as far as he can take us. That’s pretty much how it’s going to work.”
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