Dayton’s Devin Oliver has always been committed to rebounding — willing to swoop in from his perimeter position and tangle with much bigger players.
But the 6-foot-7 senior wing has been less engaged on offense, seemingly happy to let the other four players on the floor take care of that phase of the game without him.
Shooting windows in college basketball disappear quickly, and Oliver often has been hesitant when he had an open look, giving defenders time to close out and force him to either pass or take a tougher shot. During that second or two of indecision, it looked as if there was a committee meeting going on in his head about whether it was OK to pull the trigger.
He did hoist 53 three-pointers last year, one of six players on the team to attempt at least 39, but he shot 28.3 percent — easily the lowest rate of the bunch.
Oliver, though, has a new outlook this season. The mental chatter is gone. He said he’s devoted massive amounts of attention to his outside game and won’t be a reluctant shooter. If he has the ball and a clear view of the basket, Oliver promised, “It’s going up.”
He added: “I’ve put so much work into my jump shot — I always do, but this summer specifically. That’s what I’ve been preaching to myself: ‘Don’t even think about it. Let it go. You can shoot. You’re making 20 in a row in practice.’
“Another big thing is, my teammates are passing to me. They have confidence in me to shoot. It makes the shot that much easier.”
UD fans often groaned when he passed up open 3’s. But the more he missed, the more apprehensive he became. He’s shot an acceptable 43.1 percent from the field overall for his career (179-of-415) but 23.8 from beyond the arc (25-of-105).
“A lot of it is confidence for me, but you can’t hold back now,” he said. “I’m just so excited for the year. I have a lot of confidence in my game. I have even more confidence in my teammates. Our togetherness is at a whole ‘nother level. I think everyone has bought into the system.”
Oliver has never needed prodding about rebounding. He finished first on the team and fifth in the Atlantic 10 with a 7.8 average last season. He was among the top three in the league until playing limited minutes the last three games because of foul trouble.
The rest of the top five in that category were 6-8 or 6-9 power forwards.
Oliver, who averaged a career-best 8.9 points last season, said rebounding “is definitely one of those things you can’t really teach. It’s more of a hustle stat. I’ve just kind of always been good at it. It’s definitely a goal to lead the Atlantic 10 in rebounding.”
He’s got the frame to do it. He played at around 220 pounds last season but is a solid 230 this year. He arrived at UD from Kalamazoo Central High School in Michigan at 180-185.
“Devin Oliver, quite frankly, is the embodiment of how our program works,” third-year coach Archie Miller said. “He’s 230 pounds — that’s almost 40 pounds heavier than when I walked in here and got the job. That’s what you call a kid really working to improve.
“I feel like he’s going to have a great senior year, and he’s going to have to do it in a lot of different ways for us with his versatility.”
If that means becoming more of an outside threat to complement the rest of his game, and Oliver won’t back away from the challenge.
“My mind,” he said, “is definitely where it needs to be.”