WHEELING, W.Va. — Luke Dyer got the news from his roommate.
Dalton Bolon, who earlier this month was named Mountain East Conference Player of the Year, informed Dyer “we’re done,” as the Clarksburg native recalled.
Bolon’s comment, of course, was in reference to West Liberty’s basketball season, which ended abruptly last Thursday when the NCAA canceled the Division II Tournament that the Hilltoppers would have opened play in the next day. The outbreak of COVID-19, also known as coronavirus, prevented WLU from having the opportunity to make a deep run and left Dyer in shock.
“It was disbelief,” said Dyer, a junior point guard who starred at Robert C. Byrd High School. “I’ve never heard of anything like it.”
At 27-4 overall and a No. 2 seed in the Atlantic Regional, the Hilltoppers were brimming with confidence after being the first MEC team to sweep the regular season and tournament championships. West Liberty had won 10 straight and 21 of 22.
“We were rolling, had won a bunch in a row so we were high on ourselves,” Dyer said. “You play the whole season to play in the NCAA Tournament, so there was shock and disappointment.”
The Hilltoppers led all of D-II in scoring at 102.4 points per game, as well as scoring margin (24 ppg). Although Bolon was the league’s top player, with an average of 18.5 points, he wasn’t even the team’s top scorer. That honor belonged to Will Yoakum at 18.7, while Pat Robinson averaged 18.
But much of the team’s offensive success could be attributed to the 5-foot-10 Dyer, who far and away led the nation in assist-to-turnover ratio at 5.9, finishing with 124 assists and 21 turnovers. The year before, Dyer was second in D-II in that category at 4.43.
“It’s a lot of simple plays, not spectacular plays,” Dyer said. “Guys around me make my job easier. (Head) coach (Ben) Howlett emphasizes for his point guard to take care of the ball. My role is to find the open guy.”
Although Dyer will graduate in May, he has one year of eligibility left from having redshirted in the 2016-2017 season. Dyer was one of three juniors on this year’s team, which did not have a senior.
“I’m lucky I redshirted,” he said. “We’ll have a lot of expectations, but we like having a target on our back.”
For Dyer, who averaged 5.7 points and shot better than 44 percent from three-point range this season, providing more leadership will be a priority as a senior.
“I’m not the most vocal guy in practice, I’ve always been more of a lead by example kind of guy,” Dyer said. “But I’m trying to be a better vocal leader. Coach Howlett gives players a lot of hierarchy to lead and be vocal, and he wants a lot of the older guys to lead.”