Anytime you’re fortunate enough to welcome back a Second-Team All-Conference caliber player, you appreciate as a coach that you in all likelihood can breath easy, at one position, anyway, when scanning up and down the depth chart during summer workouts and ultimately during fall practices.
Such was the luxury this summer and early on in the fall for Dayton head coach Archie Miller. On the shoulders of senior point guard Kevin Dillard, a preseason All-Atlantic 10 Second Team selection to his credit, Dayton Flyer fans felt, and with good reason, that they’d have a reliable backcourt this season.
Just how reliable, and just how effective, however, nobody could be quite sure. Reason being, Dillard’s running
In Vee Sanford, preseason All-A10 Second-Team selection Kevin Dillard now has a very formidable running mate in the Dayton backcourt. (Credit: Erik Schelkun)
mate at the two guard position was a transfer, much like K.D. himself. The only difference was Vee Sanford, Dayton’s Robin to Dillard’s Batman in the DU backcourt, was very much unproven at the college level. Sanford played less than six minutes per game in his two seasons at Georgetown prior to his transfer to the A10.
But if there’s one thing we learned about Dayton last season, it’s that a transfer guard deserves the benefit of the doubt.
Following the departure of Juwan Staten, who left Dayton for West Virginia under the helm of then head coach Brian Gregory, Dayton turned to Dillard, who came to the state of Ohio from Southern Illinois and has since developed into one of, if not the best point guard the A10 has to offer. Why then, should Flyer fans expect anything less from the next guy who transfers their way?
19 games into the 2012-2013 season, Sanford has proven they shouldn’t.
Despite scoring only 99 points in two seasons as a member of the Hoyas, Sanford had the opportunity to play alongside some of the better guards the Big East had to offer and, in practice, anyway, had the opportunity to drive the lane only to be met at the rim by some of the better big men the Big East had to offer as well.
Turns out the tutelage provided by fellow teammates at GTWN has paid off as Sanford has averaged nearly 13 points and upwards of three boards per game, having played nearly 29 minutes per contest in starting all 19 games for DU this season. He’s connected on 44 percent of his shot attempts, including 37 percent from long range and has knocked down 83 percent of his attempts from the charity stripe as well.
“I learned a lot at Georgetown,” Sanford said. “Obviously I didn’t play as much as I wanted to, but over there, I just think I learned a lot under Chris Wright, Austin Freeman and Jason Clark.”
[Playing] against guys like Greg Monroe and Henry Sims, I always had to have a very high competitive edge,” Sanford added. “We had a very talented team. I learned a lot and it helped me mature.”
Vee Sanford has fit in nicely at Dayton after hardly seeing the floor at Georgetown (Credit: Erik Schelkun, Elsestar Images)
Despite all that, despite the talent and the success of the team in his two years in D.C., Sanford knew for more reasons than one that he was better suited as a member of the Dayton Flyers.
“I’m from Kentucky and [Dayton] is a little bit closer,” Sanford said. “There’s a great atmosphere here, the coaching staff was very aggressive. Coach [Bill] Cromar had scouted me out of high school when he was at Loyola in Chicago so I kind of already had a good feeling about these guys when I transferred.”
Gone are the days of watching the likes of Freeman and Wright from the pine and upon us are the days of Sanford playing alongside Dillard, forming one of the better backcourts in the A10, a current two-game Dayton win streak on their resume despite a noticeable 0-3 start to conference play.
“I feel like we’ve just got to stick to the grind,” Sanford said following Dayton’s loss at La Salle, the Flyers’ third straight at the time. “It’s just part of college ball. You’re going to go through times of adversity and it’s all about who sticks together when those times come. I just feel like we’re going to get through it, we’ve just go to keep grinding.”
It seems Sanford might have been on to something. Since that loss to the Explorers, a loss that all of a sudden doesn’t seem so bad after La Salle took down both Butler and VCU, the Flyers have won back-to-back games, albeit against A10 bottom feeders Fordham and Duquesne.
The real test will be the brutal 11-day stretch that awaits Dayton beginning this Wednesday when DU takes on in-state rival Xavier at the Cintas Center. From there, Dayton will travel to Saint Louis to take on a dangerous Billikens team, before hosting preseason A10 favorite Saint Joe’s and then Temple just four days after that.
How the Flyers fare over these next four games remains to be seen. That said, it’s safe to say the next time Miller analyzes his depth chart up and down, in and out, he’ll at least know he can breath easy at two positions and not just one.
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