Arch: Flyers frosh lead the way

The tears have dried now.

In the midst of all the postgame smiles and laughter, JaVonna Layfield remembered a time she and fellow freshman Jenna Burdette were not so delighted about being Dayton Flyers.

The pair are the only two first-year players on the UD women’s basketball team this season.

Layfield is a 5-foot-10 guard from Louisville, Ky. who plays in and around the paint much of the time. Burdette is a 5-8 point guard from tiny Coolville in southern Ohio.

Just as their hometowns are vastly different, so are their temperaments.

“I love Jenna to death, but we are two totally different people,” Layfield said. “It definitely shows in our style of play. She’s more quiet. I’m more like ‘HEY!’ More wild. But we blend real well. She brings out my calmness and I bring out her wild side.”

But the very first week they were at UD, they were very much the same.

Both were in tears.

It was the summer and they were living together in the Caldwell Street apartments next to campus.

“Our bonding moment came the time we caught each other crying,” Layfield said with a shrug. “It was early, like 5:30 or 6 in the evening, and Jenna said she was going to bed. A little bit later she comes out of her bedroom and I could tell she had been crying. Me, too. I was out in the living room and I’d just wiped my face before she came out.

“This was our first week away from home. We were in college now. We were on our own. No parents. Nobody. This was real life and we were homesick.

“We gave each other a hug and I remember saying, ‘Hey, it’s gonna be OK. We’ll be OK.’”

And Wednesday night at UD Arena the pair were more than OK. They each showed little flickers of greatness to come as Dayton routed Richmond, 79-41.

The game marked the best combined effort of the year by the two freshman as they teamed up for 24 points on 10 for 14 shooting and added eight rebounds, a pair of assists and two steals.

Burdette tied Andrea Hoover with a game-high 13 points. Layfield had a career-high 11 points.

For the 18-5 Flyers, this was a solid comeback after a disappointing 67-56 loss at No. 24 George Washington on Sunday.

Granted the competition was different and the game was at home, but Richmond still came in with a 15-8 record. The Flyers played a lot better defense than they did three days ago – they held the Spiders to 25 percent shooting (15 of 60) – and they were more aggressive … especially the freshmen.

UD coach Jim Jabir had challenged both of his young players to be more aggressive, more assertive and Wednesday night they were, although a few of those expressive moments turned into turnovers.

Burdette had six, but after the game, as Jabir huddled with her on the court, the coach talked more about the way she had put her fingerprint on the game than he did those few passes that missed the fingertips of other Flyers.

“I told her the turnovers are not acceptable but we can fix them,” Jabir said. “I said we’ll watch film and deal with that. She’ll see she forced some passes that weren’t there. But the thing that really stood out was her assertiveness. You could see it in her play today, she was looking to score. She had a job to do and today she looked to do it.”

As for Layfield, who usually plays sparingly off the bench, she was on the floor a season-high 18 minutes. In her past three games combined she had scored two points.

“She doesn’t even know how good she can he,” Jabir said. “She doesn’t even know how to play the game yet. Everything you see, she’s doing on natural ability. It’s instinctive. And she does some really cool things out there. You see flashes of greatness. When she finally figures it, she can be a dynamic player. Someone who could take the game over.”

And in Burdette, the Flyers have a savvy player – she’s a coach’s daughter who knows the game – who can direct her team from out front and score herself.

Wednesday night, Burdette was looking for Layfield:

“She was everywhere on the boards and she was making hard cuts and we found her. She had a great game.”

One day this will be this pair’s team, just as it now is led by senior starters Ally Malott and Hoover.

“We’re learning from them, but we feel a bond between the two of us, too” Layfield said. “We even have a little nickname. We call each other 20 and 18. She’s 20. I’m 18. That’s because we’re the Class of 2018.

“Out there tonight, it was like ‘Hey, good job 20!’…’Yeah, way to go 18. Way to go!’”

As she thought about those in-game exchanges, she started to laugh.

The crying times are over for JaVonna Layfield and Jenna Burdette.

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