Men’s basketball: Lavonte Dority may be small in stature, but he has huge role for VU
By Steve T. Gorches 314-3797 or firstname.lastname@example.org November 6, 2013 11:20PM
Valparaiso University's Lavonte Dority makes a layup past Eastern Kentucky's Timmy Knipp during their game held at Valparaiso University on Saturday February 22, 2013. | Charles Mitchell~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: December 9, 2013 10:40AM
VALPARAISO — Last season Lavonte Dority was a little fish in a big pond.
Translation: The Chicago native was one of the new guys, waiting until December to play after transferring from South Florida, then coming off the bench to play among seven senior leaders on the Crusaders.
Out of only four returnees from last year’s Horizon League championship squad, Dority contributed the most of the quartet once he was allowed to suit up at 21 minutes per game. It led to him earning the Horizon League Sixth Man of the Year award. He also was awarded the team’s Homer Drew Sr. Memorial Award, given to Valparaiso’s most improved player.
He admitted it wasn’t easy watching and waiting, but well worth it.
“There were pros and cons to sitting,” he said. “Of course I wanted to play, but I was able to be another coach, helping the guys from the bench.”
This year, the ‘little fish in the big pond’ phrase has a different meaning for Dority. The 6-foot-1 point guard will lead a new offense with plenty of new players with all of them except two — 6-foot guard Keith Carter, who won’t be eligible until late December, and 5-11 freshman Lexus Williams, who is also from Chicago — much taller than Dority. Quite a bit taller, as a matter of fact, since six of them are at least 6-foot-7.
But he’s OK with that, knowing his role perfectly.
“I love the big guys,” Dority said. “We have to use that size to our advantage. I’m looking forward to leading these guys, using my experience to teach the younger guys”
That will be his new job after being the spark plug off the bench last season. He averaged 8.6 points per game — third-best on a senior-laden squad — and 1.9 assists. So topping both of those marks will be an obvious goal, but head coach Bryce Drew is focused more on the intangibles.
“We definitely want more leadership from Lavonte,” Drew said. “Conditioning was also something we wanted him to work on.”
Dority also worked on his shooting, though he realizes the offense won’t be as reliant on that part of his game. It’s his driving and dishing that will make or break this team.
“I want to be more consistent with my outside shot, but I know what my role is,” he said.
Some may wonder why a player would transfer from sunny South Florida to come to Valparaiso, but Dority stated the obvious: He wanted to be closer to his family.
He also relished the opportunity to learn from a former NBA player.
“We, as players, can relate to Bryce since he’s been to the next level,” Dority said. “I love being a sponge with him, soaking up everything I can and learn from him.”