Former Dayton coach Archie Miller once described Devin Oliver “as charismatic a guy as I have ever been around.”
Oliver certainly left his mark on Dayton basketball as the captain of the team that made the run to the Elite Eight, in which he was named to the All South Regional Team of the NCAA Tournament in 2014. Now he has taken his talents, both on and off the court, to Ljubljana, Slovenia, where he is in his second season with Petrol Olimpija. We had a chance to visit recently on Facetime to talk about his life after UD.
His first year out of school he played in Belgium, and was active in the community working with youth teams. The following year, he found himself in a bad fit on a team in Israel, and was cut, coming back to Dayton for a short time before finishing the season on a team in France.
“It was a lot like my freshman and sophomore years at UD,” he said. “I was struggling to get into any kind of rhythm. And then my last two years, I turned the corner.”
A change in agents coincided with finding a good fit with his current team and the city of Ljubljana.
“It reminds me a lot of Kalamazoo (his hometown). It’s comfortable for me, and an easy drive to practice,” he said.
However, “D-Mo” doesn’t spend all his time in the gym. I saw a video on social media last year, in which he and a teammate came to the workplace of a fan to surprise him on his birthday. The man was moved to tears.
“He is without a doubt, our number one fan,” Devin said. “He is at every game, and usually shows up at the end of practice to wish us well.”
Oliver and his teammates rewarded that fan, and others, by winning their league championship last season. Oliver was named the team MVP.
“Basketball is big here,” he said. “We play in an arena that seats almost 13,000 people.”
Petrol Olimpija won the European Cup in 1994, but then fell on some lean years. Last year’s national title is part of a comeback, and although the team got off to a slow start this season, they are back in the top four and playoff bound.
With the popularity, comes responsibility.
“You only get a few foreigners on your roster,” Oliver said. “Management and fans expect you to perform.”
Playing as he describes it, “free and easy.” Oliver has stuffed the stat sheet with points, rebounds and steals, much as he did in his final year at UD. And like his college career, he is the most fan-friendly member of his team.
“I get asked to do a lot of appearances, and 85 percent of the time I say yes,” he said. I only say no, if there is a schedule conflict. I recently was part of the Special Olympics medal ceremony, which you know I couldn’t say no to because of Miya.”
Dayton fans probably remember Devin’s younger sister, Miya, from games at UD Arena and how she captured the hearts of the nation cheering on big brother during the Elite Eight run. She and Devin’s parents will be coming to Slovenia this month to spend the holiday with him.
His mom sends him constant messages, counting down the days to their arrival. While his dad offers him pep talks, encouraging him to always play like he did that senior season in a Flyers uniform.
Oliver finished his career with 923 points and 756 rebounds, which based upon stats alone, may not be enough to get him into the UD Athletic Hall of Fame. However, when you look at the complete body of his work, on and off the court, both in Dayton and now in Slovenia, he is a Hall of Famer by any measure.