EVANSVILLE, Ind. — Shawn Dyer of Indiana (Pa.) hit the four-peat at this year’s Division II Elite Eight Men‘s Basketball Championship.
Now if he can a national title Saturday afternoon, which would come at precisely the same time that his twin sister is playing for Louisville in the Division I Women’s Basketball tournament.
The last time Dyer was on the court at the Ford Center, in March 2014, Central Missouri was celebrating its national championship after a win against West Liberty and Dyer.
Fast forward to 2015, and Dyer, a graduate student at IUP, is a vital cog in the Crimson Hawks’ backcourt. Dyer hit a free throw and succeeded in a couple of crucial throw-ins in the final minute of IUP’s 56-53 win Wednesday against Azusa Pacific.
IUP coach Joe Lombardi, who led the Crimson Hawks to the national championship game in 2010, appreciates what Dyer has brought to his team.
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“Shawn’s a man,” Lombardi said. “Sometimes you come into this tournament and guys are young and they’re inexperienced. But Shawn’s growing into a man and he sees big pictures and he understands. He’s really ego-less.’
And that’s the thing about this four-peat. After missing out on a national title by a few baskets last year and also going to the Elite Eight with West Liberty in 2012 and 2013, Dyer didn’t turn his final year of eligibility as a grad student into some sort of grand search for a championship.
It isn’t about him. It’s about them.
“[Senior guard] Devante Chance is probably one of the hardest workers I’ve been with, played with,” Dyer said about his partner in the starting backcourt. “This guy works his butt off. I really wanted to see him and the team get this experience. It’s not just me. Everybody contributed, but to see this group of guys get here, it really means a lot. It’s nice.”
“It’s just about his teammates, the guys that he loves and he wants to play for them,” Lombardi said. “He wants to do well and he’s a talented player, but mainly because he wants to play for them. He’s not playing for himself.”
One year ago, Dyer almost single-handedly put West Liberty in the championship game. He scored a game-high 30 points in the semifinals, an 86-83 win against South Carolina-Aiken. A year at IUP has made him even better, Dyer says.
“These guys, they really look to get better each game,” he said. It’s not just, ‘Oh, let’s try to win this game.’ How can we get better is the question.
“Coach Lombardi has definitely helped me a lot. He’s a basketball head. You can’t get enough knowledge from a guy like coach Lombardi. This guy knows the game. He’s been around. He’s seen a lot. I’m grateful to have him as a coach.”
Wednesday, Dyer scored 11 points on 5-of-8 shooting and played 34 minutes. Chance had a game-high six assists and scored a team-high 14 points.
“Throughout the season, he’s had some big time shots, advice and great deal of leadership,” Chance said of Dyer. “So that’s the type of player I knew I was getting.”
Among those big shots were the 23 points he scored for IUP against West Liberty in the Atlantic Region title game won by IUP 77-74. He was named the Most Outstanding Player of the regional tournament.
As Dyer considered his school options for 2014-15, he liked the look of the IUP team and especially liked the schedule. The Crimson Hawks played at Division I schools Pittsburgh and South Florida in the preseason. They lost to USF by just five points.
“We competed well against [both] of those division I teams,” Dyer said. “That‘s the experience I always wanted.”
But now there is the Elite Eight and also the DI women’s tournament. Thursday night, the Crimson Hawks (30-6) will play Tarleton State (31-3) in the DII semifinals. The winner plays in the championship game on national TV Saturday afternoon.
Meanwhile, Shawnta’ Dyer, Shawn’s twin sister, will play for Louisville in the DI women’s tournament against Dayton on Saturday in Albany, New York.
“We talk every day,” Shawn Dyer said. “We criticize each other, tell each other what we did wrong, what we can improve on. After every game. We’re hard on each other, but that’s the type of relationship we have.”
But what’s a brother to do when both games are at the same time Saturday?
“I don’t know what my mom’s going to do,” he said, laughing.