Dayton’s X-Factor

If I told you going into the year that Xeyrius Williams would be a major part of Dayton’s success, you probably would’ve laughed and questioned my sanity. Well, maybe you question my sanity as it is, but Williams’ importance for the Flyers this season can not be denied. Now standing at 6’9″, the sophomore forward says he’s not done growing and his game certainly isn’t either. After hitting the two biggest threes of his life against Rhode Island, Williams made his first career start last Tuesday at Saint Louis. With March quickly approaching and the True Team gearing up for another run, Williams will look to keep the hot streak rolling.

Averaging only 2.1 points in less than 10 minutes per game last year, Xeyrius Williams struggled to show much potential at all. Heading into the 2016-17 season, Williams’ role and playing time looked like it would not increase. With the addition of 6’7″ standout transfer Josh Cunningham, most fans expected Williams to see little action this year. Over the offseason, however, everything changed in the blink of an eye. The heartbreaking death of “Big” Steve McElvene left Dayton without a true center. Kendall Pollard, the Flyer’s dominant senior forward, missed the first six games due to injury. Then, in the second game of the season, Cunningham suffered a severe ankle injury after throwing down a monster dunk. All of these injuries led to one thing: an opportunity for Xeyrius Williams to prove himself.

Entering the home stretch of conference play, Williams continues to not only meet expectations, but far exceed them. Williams has scored in double figures eight times this year and is currently averaging 7.7 points per game. One of the sophomore forward’s most impressive attributes is his ability to shoot the three ball. At 6’9″ Williams can really spread the floor and give defenses nightmares by shooting over 41% from behind the arc this season.

As Rhode Island fans know all too well, Williams can be clutch when the situation arises. After trailing by four with 24.4 seconds to go, Dayton came back to defeat the Rams thanks to their emerging sophomore star. Williams hit two threes in the final 18 seconds to give the Flyers a huge 75-74 road win.

Following a 77-70 win over St. Joseph’s on February 7th, Williams talked about the major improvement this year and his ability to knock down big threes. Williams said “Its just been confidence. I know it’s going in every time I release it…I put so much time in at the gym, why not.”

Now, as the lone sophomore starter on a senior-led squad, Xeyrius Williams is showing everyone just how much he can do. After busting out for 18 points in a win at Duquesne, Williams’ play has continued to get better and better. Even with Josh Cunningham finally back from injury, the Flyers need Williams to keep playing at a high level. Watch out for the X-man to be Dayton’s X-factor in another March run.

Grant Kelly is a sophomore finance and marketing major at the University of Dayton. He has been attending college basketball games since birth and has...