Walk-on Westerfield earns meaningful minutes for Dayton

Junior guard plays over Crosby, Williams against Fordham

John Crosby didn’t see the court Saturday for the Dayton Flyers. Neither did Xeyrius Williams. That wasn’t as surprising as the fact that walk-on guard Jack Westerfield moved ahead of them in the rotation, at least in this game.

Westerfield, a 6-foot-1 junior guard from Cincinnati, played two minutes in the first half and another minute in the second half in an 80-70 victory against Fordham at UD Arena. His only stat was a personal foul.

Westerfield’s not exactly Bobby Wehrli — not yet, at least — but he’s earned meaningful minutes by working hard.

“He busts his butt in practice,” Dayton guard Jalen Crutcher said. “He plays good defense. He does whatever coach says. I guess that’s why.”

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“He shows up day in and day out to practice, always on time,” Dayton guard Trey Landers said. “He’s just bought into what coach (Anthony) Grant wants. When Jack gets in the game, he does what he does and plays to his strengths, and that’s getting him some time on the floor.”

Westerfield played the last eight minutes in an 81-65 loss at St. Joseph’s on Jan. 17. He played the last nine minutes Wednesday in an 85-67 loss at George Mason. This was the first time he entered a game in the first half in a game Dayton was leading.

“I think his teammates trust him,” Grant said. “I think our coaching staff trusts him. Tonight was an opportunity for him to get in there and show what he’s capable of doing.”

Grant was asked if Westerfield earning playing time was a statement of sorts about the scholarship players on the roster who didn’t play Saturday.

“I really hadn’t looked at it as a statement,” Grant said. “Other than I felt like he would help us, so he got the opportunity.”

Williams has not played in three of the last four games. This was the first time Crosby hasn’t played since the St. Joseph’s game, which he missed because of an illness.

“My thing is in order to sub or play, somebody’s got to come out,” Grant said. “As a coach, you have to make a decision. Who puts you in the best position to have success? That’s all we’re trying to do. It’s never about an individual. I love all of our guys. I think they’re great people. But at the end of the day, my job is to accomplish the mission, and that’s to put the best team out there that gives us the best chance to have success a a team. That’s what we try to do. The guys we played today we thought gave us the best chance.”

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Williams was expected to be a key part of this team after a breakout sophomore season in which he averaged 8.2 points and 4.8 rebounds. Instead, he’s averaging 2.9 points and 2.6 rebounds in 13.1 minutes per game. He missed five straight games with a back injury in November and December and has scored in double figures twice since then.

Landers said he talks to Williams, his former Wayne High School teammate, about his lack of playing time.

“I tell him, ‘Day in and day out, control what you can control,’” Landers said. “At the end of the day, you want to play, but that’s not your decision. That’s up to coach. I tell him it starts in practice. You have to work. That’s the main thing we talk about.”

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