Jordan Sibert is a 6-foot-4 guard, not a towering big man, but he still managed to reject a Will Rogers offering Saturday afternoon at UD Arena.
It was Rogers, the legendary cowboy commentator and humorist, who once said so famously: “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.”
Here’s how Sibert swatted that thought right off the court.
Last weekend, the Dayton Flyers’ junior transfer from Ohio State wasn’t himself at the team’s annual preseason intrasquad scrimmage.
“I thought Jordan put a lot of pressure on himself in the Red and Blue scrimmage — like he was trying to win the national championship for us out there,” UD coach Archie Miller said with a half smile. “He ended up playing a really tight game.”
Saturday was UD’s first game, an exhibition against Toronto’s Ryerson University. A crowd of 10,807 was announced and for most of those folks it was their first time seeing the Flyers this season.
The team looks quite a bit different than last year.
Senior forward and team captain Devin Oliver — at a muscled 230 pounds — is 10 pounds heavier than last season and 45 more than when he came here as a freshman. Big man Jalen Robinson’s thatch of gold-tipped dreadlocks is gone. His hair is trimmed short and that got postgame salutes from Oliver: “I like it better, he looks cleaner.” And Miller: “I love it … just love it.”
There are a bunch of eager freshmen — Scoochie Smith started and his speed to the basket was impressive — and 6-foot-10 Matt Kavanaugh was back from a year’s exile and showing a little rust.
But the guy who caught your eye in the Flyers’ 89-62 victory was Sibert. He finished with a game-high 17 points — he was 3-for-5 shooting from 3-point range and 6 for 7 from the free-throw line — and had four assists and a pair of rebounds in 19 minutes.
“He played today like he’s practiced the past four or five days,” Miller said. “He showed great efficiency, his shot-making ability is something we have to have, and he showed an ability to get to the basket and draw fouls.”
So what changed from one week to the next?
Sibert smiled and shook his head:
“Actually, I had an hour-and-a-half conversation with Coach Archie in his office. It was last Tuesday. We watched film for 30 minutes and then he just talked to me — for an hour — about how it’s not my show.
“At the Red and Blue, I was pressing that game trying to show everybody that I could play and I kinda went on my own thing. He made me see that my way’s not gonna win it. I’m gonna have to play as hard as I can and play my role and be the best Jordan I can be.”
Miller said they talked a lot early last week. The gist, he said, was “just compete in practice and let the game come to him.”
Sibert might be new to the program, but Miller has known him longer than any player on the team. When he was an assistant coach at Ohio State from 2007 to 2009, Miller recruited the five-star Rivals.com player at Cincinnati’s Pricenton High School — to the Buckeyes.
Sibert was part of a much-touted 2010 OSU recruiting class that included Jared Sullinger, Aaron Craft, and J.D. Weatherspoon — all who had been members of the national champion All-Ohio Red AAU team.
But once in Columbus, Sibert struggled. In two seasons, he played bits and pieces of 49 games, averaging less than 3 points per game and shooting less than 30 percent from the field. And his confidence eroded along with his playing time.
Although he was part of the Buckeyes’ Final Four team, he decided to transfer, but then said he debated that plan right to the end:
“The decision was one me and my family made, but even as I was going to the office to do it, I had so many second thoughts. I thought, ‘Maybe I should stay. This is probably where I belong.’
“But when it came down to it, it was a man’s decision. I had to be a man.”
Last season, per NCAA rule, he wasn’t allowed to play for the Flyers and spent every game on the bench in street clothes. Although he found himself at a new school and in a new situation, he also was more familiar with UD than he would have been at most other places.
“I played at UD Arena in high school — in fact, we played Kavanaugh’s (Centerville) team here in the tournament — and I’d been to Flyers games, too,” he said.
“My brother (Logan Brogdon) went here a year and even walked onto the team for a while when Monty Scott and Logan White and some of those guys were here. I remember coming to games and there were a lot of people at them, just a whole lot of support, and the atmosphere was pretty electric.”
He said once he transferred to UD, he found all that again as well as new teammates who embraced him: “The seniors last year — KD (Kevin Dillard) and Josh (Parker) — made me feel welcome. The coaches did, too.”
Yet, for as soft as the landing was for him, he made it harder by doubting himself.
“When we looked at the film (last Tuesday) Archie showed me what I was doing,” Sibert said. “He said, ‘Look, I can tell you’re thinking about other people. You want to show them what you can do. Just impress yourself. Just be Jordan. Be yourself and when you do that, that’s when you’ll impress other people.’”
He said he played more relaxed against Ryerson:
“Today I wanted to show people I could do something out there. Show that I can change the culture here. I wanted people’s first impression to be that this guy can impact the team.”
And thanks to a 90-minute conversation with his coach and Saturday’s second chance, that was the first impression he made.