LOUISVILLE, Ky. - There isn't a thing in this world Shawn Dyer wouldn't do in order to be a part of the West Liberty men's basketball program. His talent level suggests he could not only be a starter, but a star on a team that is preparing to play in an NCAA Division II national semifinal today at noon inside Freedom Hall against Metro State.
The thing about Dyer though, is the 6-foot sophomore from Marion, Ohio, doesn't care about anything but winning.
"I think we just really want to go to Atlanta and see what we can do from there (in the national championship). That's the only goal," Dyer said after Friday morning's workout. "All 15 guys, the goal is to start. But you've got to accept the roles you're given.
West Liberty’s Cedric Harris (32) shoots a layup during the NCAA Division II Tournament in Louisville. WLU plays Metro State in the semifinals at noon today.
"I feel like anyone can start, anyone can score. I just want to do my best and show what I can do, even if I am not starting."
It didn't take Coach Jim Crutchfield long to figure out he had a winner in Dyer, who averages 11.2 points in 22 minutes for a team that just set a school record with its 34th victory of the season. When Dyer was a redshirt freshman, he wasn't permitted to travel with the team according to NCAA rules, but could sit on the bench if he could find a way to the games.
"He never missed a game,'' Crutchfield recalled.
That included the Hilltoppers' run to the Final Four in Springfield, Mass., when he hopped on a charter bus.
"Someone provided a bus for the school and there were some fans and cheerleaders, and I was desperate to go," Dyer said with a grin. "I wanted to see the experience and see what it was like."
It wasn't surprising for Crutchfield to see Dyer show up, not after what he had already witnessed throughout the season.
"He rode with other families. He babysat Coach Bovaird's kids so he could ride with Eric's wife,'' Crutchfield said. "I still remember pulling in at Glenville and the door opened and there were about five West Lib girls and Shawn came out in the middle of them.
"He said 'I found a ride.' He always found a way to the game and I wouldn't even know. We would get ready to start the game and all of a sudden I would look down at the end of the bench and there would be Shawn."
Does that scream out team player to anyone else?
Crutchfield believes big things are on the horizon for the lefty-shooting guard who is the active D-II leader in 3-point percentage, yet rarely gets mentioned when the conversation turns to the Hilltoppers' arsenal. The coach expects Dyer will turn into not only an all-conference player, but an All-American.
"You're looking at a guy who has never been in the starting lineup but he's a sophomore who is well on his way to scoring 1,000 points," the coach said. "He's been here two years as a role player off the bench and has scored 600-700 points.
"I think Shawn's game has gotten better and better as this year has gone along. As that's happened he's played more."
Crutchfield refers to Dyer as the team's "silent assassin." That's pretty fitting considering his demeanor never seems to change.
The Hilltoppers have their eyes on the prize and guys like Dyer are quick to remind everyone the club is here for business, not to have a good time. Oh, there will be time to enjoy this ride, but it's not going to be while it is still in progress.
"Most of these guys have been here before and I have been here, so I think they're soaking it in,'' Dyer said. "We had a lot of fun with Churchill Downs and that kind of stuff, but when it's time to play the game we're focused.
"I really think we can win it all."
Shawn Rine can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com