Flyers’ Antetokounmpo: ‘Every game I’m getting better’

Dayton freshman has been inconsistent but played better at Richmond

No Dayton Flyers player had greater expectations heaped on him or more intrigue surrounding him entering the season than Kostas Antetokounmpo. He was a top-100 recruit with a famous brother. On the other hand, he hadn't played in two years and missed a good chunk of offseason and preseason practices with an injury.

By this point, many Dayton fans have a rough idea of how to pronounce his name, and maybe they could even spell it. What to expect from him on any given night is a greater mystery.

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The 6-foot-10 redshirt freshman leads the Flyers in highlight-reel plays, but much like the team, his performance has been inconsistent. He had nine points and four rebounds in 16 minutes Tuesday in an 87-81 victory on the road against the Richmond Spiders, showing flashes of his potential.

“I feel like last night was a good step for me,” Antetokounmpo said after the game. “I feel every game I’m getting better. I feel like that’s how my career’s going to be going from now on.”

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The key for Antetokounmpo, coach Anthony Grant said Wednesday, is “understanding what he does that impacts our team in a positive way and developing a level of consistency with that.”

In the first 16 games, Antetokounmpo averaged 5.3 points and 3.3 rebounds. He shot 58.9 percent from the floor. Among the nine players in the rotation, he ranked eighth in minutes (16.2). Despite his limited role, he had 20 of the team’s 44 blocks.

Some of his lack of playing time can be explained by foul trouble. He ranked second on the team with 43 fouls. Just as often he sat on the bench because he wasn’t playing well or Grant liked what he saw out of other players on the court.

It has been a learning experience for Antetokounmpo, and it’s easy to forget because of all the hype he has received that he’s only a freshman.

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Lately, Antetokounmpo has shown improvement at the free-throw line. He made 6 of 15 in the first 12 games but 10 of 15 in the last four.

“I’ve been listening to the coaches,” Antetokounmpo said. “Before I wasn’t getting low and bending my knees. Now I’m hitting my free throws, and I’m kind of proud of myself.”

Antetokounmpo also stopped a streak on Tuesday. He scored the first points of his career on a 3-pointer in the season opener against Ball State and then missed his next nine attempts. After missing three 3-pointers against Saint Mary’s, he didn’t shoot another one until Tuesday. He made his only attempt against the Spiders.

“I was kind of excited about that, too,” Antetokounmpo said. “If you watch it, I was hesitant to shoot it.”

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