If I had to graph the last 12 months of Dayton basketball, it would look a lot like the route of the Tour de France with more peaks and valleys than all the roller coasters at King’s Island.
Devin Oliver’s bank shot to beat Ole Miss, Vee Sanford’s bank shot to beat Ohio State, the transfers of Khari Price and Alex Gavrilovic, the offseason news dominated by injuries, the tip-in by Devon Scott to beat Texas A&M, the dismissals of Scott and Jalen Robinson just a week ago, that all happened in 2014.
And I’ve been there for every game, a streak that’s going to end when I go to New Orleans for six nights to cover the Buckeyes at the end of this week. Writing is still my first priority, and it’s what I’ve been doing full time for almost 18 years, but they gave me a real camera two years ago when I was covering Wright State and that’s become a big and fun part of the job.
I had to learn about ISO and shutter speed and the difference between a 200 millimeter lens and a 300 mm, all these things my wife (who’s a Columbus Dispatch photographer) had been talking about for years. It wasn’t until she helped get me the type of camera you can’t drop that it all started to sink in, and it still is. Since I’ve never taken a photography class, I’ll always have a lot to learn.
We’ve still got eight days left in 2014, so crazy things could happen for the Flyers, but for now, here are my top 10 favorite photos of the year.
No. 1: Dayton beats Ohio State.
I remember I had to kneel in the second row of photographers for most of the second half. I lost my seat because I had to edit photos at halftime. By the end of this game, I was covered in sweat from the constant kneeling and moving around to keep up with a frenetic game.
Play didn’t stop when Vee Sanford hit his game-winning shot with seconds to play. Aaron Craft took the in-bounds play and raced to the other end, away from me and other photographers, like Ron Thaman, who shoots for FlyerHoops.net. I didn’t have time to check to see if I had the winning shot in focus. I had to shoot the action on the other end.
Of the many photos I took, this is the one that will endure. It was on the front page of the Dayton Daily News under our famous headline, “THE University of Dayton.” It ended up on the cover of Larry Hansgen’s “True Team” book.
2. Oliver beats Ole Miss
I’m ranking this one second only because I think it’s the only photo, at least from the front, of Devin Oliver’s game-winning bank shot in overtime. Thaman was shooting video of this shot. There were Ole Miss photographers there, but they were shooting from the other end of the court.
3. Dayton beats Syracuse
For the second time in three days, I remember thinking, “Well, that just happened.” Even though I thought UD had a chance to win both games, I didn’t think they would. It’s just so hard to advance in the tournament. Watching the opponent miss two straight potential game-winning shots at the buzzer, that just doesn’t happen — except to the Flyers in 2014.
4. A new season
My wife has urged me to go into the stands to get new angles on the game with the cameras. That’s how I got this shot of pregame introductions before the season opener against Alabama A&M last month.
5. End of the run
There has to be a sad photo in here with all the happy ones. This is the inevitable photo of Devin Oliver, Dyshawn Pierre and Vee Sanford witnessing the end of Dayton’s loss to Florida in the Elite Eight. You’ve got to love the young guys consoling the seniors: Pierre with his arm around Oliver. Sanford has a look of just utter dejection.
6. Just hanging around
If any photo represents the new season, this is it. I don’t mean to encourage Kendall Pollard to do any more pull-ups on the rim, as he did in this photo from Puerto Rico, but Pollard’s energy has been a trademark of the Flyers’ 8-2 start. This might have been a better photo from the other end, but then it wouldn’t have had the Flyer fans in the background, enjoying Pollard’s moment despite the technical foul that followed.
7. Olean enthusiasm
I loved the atmosphere at St. Bonaventure. This photo of Dyshawn Pierre in-bounding the ball in front of the students in Olean, N.Y. brought me back to my days covering high school basketball, which wasn’t that long ago. This photo could have just as easily been taken at Southeastern High School. The guy in blue, by the way, is a Buffalo Bills player.
8. Jumping for joy
Oliver, the senior, and Pollard, the freshman, celebrate a comeback victory at Duquesne.
9. Senior night at UD
There’s a lot of Oliver on this list, but this photo also features the equally-famous Miya Oliver, his sister.
10. The Flyer Faithful
There was absolute joy and bedlam in the UD fan section after the victory over Ohio State. All I had to was point the camera and click away. This guy stood out in the center, and we later determined via Twitter that his name was Ben Thobe. I named him UD Fan of the Game, but there were a lot of candidates.