As a freshman, Drew Dyer started 23 games for the UC San Diego men’s basketball team last season after transferring from the Air Force Academy. He finished as the team’s third-leading scorer (9.3 ppg) and second-best rebounder (5.3 rpg) while knocking down more than 40% of his three-point attempts. Dyer’s upped those numbers to 14.5 ppg and 12.0 rpg in the early going as a sophomore. The 6-foot-6 Aurora, Colo. product earned CCAA Player of the Week honors Monday after scoring 22 points and grabbing 14 rebounds against perennial conference contender Cal State San Bernardino. He’s clearly caught the eye of first-year head coach Eric Olen.
“Drew is a hard-working, blue-collar type of player who brings a lot of physicality to the gym every day,” says Olen, a 10-year Triton assistant before taking over the top spot from Chris Carlson. “He has the ability to space the floor and take bigger guys outside. We’re expecting great things out of him this year.” The rugged forward took time recently to talk about the move to UCSD, the adjustment to a new head coach, and his Triton teammates.
Q: Two games into the season, how would you describe the 2013-14 Triton men’s basketball team?
DYER: Two games in I think the best way to describe us is as a passionate and hungry group. We’re pretty young and a little undersized, but we have great senior leadership and guys that just want to play hard, compete, and get the job done. We always believe we can win and our work ethic is always going to put us in a position to succeed.
Q: Where has it improved the most from last year? What is one area that still needs to be improved if the team wants to reach its potential?
DYER: Our team defense has improved most from last year. We know our jobs and our rotations and it’s allowing us to play fast and aggressive. We need to continue working on rebounding as a team. All five guys on the floor have to make contact with their man and pursue the ball. Like I said we’re a little small sometimes, so all five need to work to make sure we finish defensive possessions.
Q: How would you evaluate your freshman season at UCSD?
DYER: My freshman season was really exciting. Obviously, we were disappointed with the triple-overtime loss (at Cal State San Bernardino) in the (CCAA tournament), but we accomplished a lot of great things during the season. I learned a lot about the game and was just happy to be on the court.
Q: What did you work hardest on getting better at during the off-season?
DYER: I just worked a lot on my overall game and my agility/speed. I want to be a well-rounded player and not just rely on my jumper. I feel more comfortable in areas/situations on the court where last year I wasn’t as comfortable. And working on my agility and speed helped me become a better overall defender.
Q: In August, your team went on a foreign trip to Costa Rica. What were the highlights from a basketball and non-basketball perspective?
DYER: The trip to Costa Rica was awesome. We went undefeated against a couple Costa Rica pro teams and the Costa Rica national team. James (McCann) and Mack (MacKenzie McCullough) had a pretty sick alley-oop. Mack’s head was right with the rim. Off the court, getting to do basketball camps for groups of Costa Rican kids was something I’ll never forget. Those camps were special experiences. We also had three days on the beach at the end of the trip and those were a lot of fun, too. The whole trip was incredible.
Q: In September, head coach Chris Carlson unexpectedly departed for a position with the West Coast Conference. What were your feelings when you heard the news?
DYER: I was bummed when I first heard that Coach Carlson was going to be leaving the team. I thought this past summer, with the foreign tour and all, had really bonded our team, so losing Coach C kind of felt like a step backwards at the time. Coach Carlson was one of the nicest men I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing. He truly cared about all of us on and off the court.
Q: How do you feel the team has adapted to new head coach Eric Olen? How successful has his transition been to his new role? What differences have you seen, if any, in coaching style?
DYER: I think we’ve adapted well to Coach Olen (CEO). I was really happy when I heard CEO was going to be taking over as head coach, because I knew the team already had a lot of respect for him and would really want to fight for him. He’s done a lot of great things for the team so far and he is continuing to push us in the right direction. He’s brought a new attitude and demeanor to our team, which to me has been the main reason for our success up to this point.
Q: Let’s talk about some of the talents and personalities on this year’s Triton roster. Who is the person you would want on the free throw line with the game in the balance? Who is the toughest player? Funniest? Best dressed?
DYER: Our team is like that loving dysfunctional family that everyone knows. We have a lot of different personalities, and it just works. Guys will just hang around talking and messing around after practice every day. Sports are at their best when you are a part of a team like this. In any clutch situation, I want James (McCann) with the ball. I have full confidence that he’ll always make the right play for our team. Already this season, he iced away our win at D1 Grand Canyon by scoring the last eight points.
Mike Rob (Michael Robinson) is a tough dude who’s bounced back and rose up from a lot of adversity. He just keeps working no matter what. I hate to say it but Treavon (Francis) is probably the funniest guy on the team. He’s always doing something that even gets CEO laughing. Everyone’s pretty funny, though. It kind of just depends on the day. I’m not sure anybody would agree with this but I’m definitely the best dressed on the team.
Q: When you have down time on the road, what kinds of things does the team do together?
DYER: On the road, there’s a lot of napping and lounging going on. Whenever there’s something good on TV, we’ll relay the channel to everyone. Some guys study, too, especially when mid-terms are coming up.
Q: Which is the toughest CCAA road trip?
DYER: The Humboldt (State)-Cal Poly (Pomona) trip is the hardest trip. It’s a lot of traveling and bus-riding in three days. It’s also kind of fun, but it’s definitely the hardest.
Q: You originally went to the Air Force Academy to play football. For you, what are the favorite aspects of football and basketball?
DYER: I still really love football. I love the physicality and intensity that only football brings. Nothing quite like it. But basketball has always been my true passion, I love playing on basketball teams that really play as a team, and that’s what we have going on here at UCSD.
Q: Which of your football skills comes in most handy on the basketball court?
DYER: Probably just my toughness and intensity. Obviously, I’m not running around tackling guys, but being physical and just working hard gets me a majority of my production. I’m what most people would consider as “vertically challenged” because I’m not a very good jumper, but I try and make up for it by out-working my opponent.
Q: What led to your switch of both sport and school? What’s been the best thing about the move to UC San Diego?
DYER: Even though I love football, basketball has always been my first passion and I’ve wanted to be a college basketball player for as long as I can remember. I wanted the opportunity to fulfill that goal and to compete. The best thing about the move to UCSD has been the people I’ve met. I’ve made a lot of lifelong friends and I’m grateful for that.
Q: What is your favorite UCSD architectural landmark?
DYER: It probably would have to be the seven deadly sins/seven heavenly virtues neon lights that hang over by Warren Lecture Hall. I think it’s a pretty cool concept. I know you didn’t ask but Hopkins Parking Structure is my least favorite. That place is a disaster.
Q: What is your favorite place to eat on campus? Off campus?
DYER: My favorite place to eat on campus would have to be Round Table. I like pizza and they always have either live games or replays on the TVs. Off campus, I eat a lot of Chipotle. But to be more original I like Lightnin' Jack’s BBQ over in the Clairemont Town Square.
Q: If you had a free week, which other sport at UCSD would you like to play?
DYER: I’d have to play for the water polo team. I love going to their games and it seems like a pretty sweet sport. Growing up in Colorado, water polo wasn’t very popular, but I would have liked to play. I played a couple times in high school for a class but that was more like friends just trying to drown friends.
Q: What are three reasons fans should come out to watch the 2013-14 Triton men’s basketball team?
DYER: Fans should come watch our team because we play really hard. We play the type of basketball that’s easy for fans to get into. Another reason is because Spirit Night (the one game everyone comes to) is always the best night and I think fans would really enjoy other games the same way. Also, fans coming to games will get to see a team on a mission and they’ll get to be a part of our journey.
Previous Triton Q&A Features
Kameron Cooper (Women's Volleyball) October 28, 2013
Rachel Leslie (Women's Soccer) October 9, 2013
Marie Diaz (Women's Cross Country/Track & Field) October 1, 2013
Joe Dietrich (Men's Water Polo) September 2, 2013
Josh Cohen (Men's Soccer) August 23, 2013
Sara McCutchan (Women's Volleyball) August 9, 2013
Kellen Levy (Men's Cross Country/Track & Field) July 26, 2013
Izzy Pozurama (Women's Soccer) July 8, 2013
Colin Truex (Women's Crew Head Coach) June 28, 2013