March 26, 2014 in Sports

Dayton’s Devin Oliver on President Obama’s radar

Associated Press

MEMPHIS, Tenn. – Once again, Devin Oliver has found a way to bypass the red tape, the Secret Service, the pressing political interests of the day and get the attention of President Barack Obama.

Four years ago, Oliver was one of the students who invited Obama to deliver the commencement speech at Kalamazoo Central, his Michigan high school.

“I remember, before he handed out the diplomas, we were back stage and he came over and talked,” said the Dayton Flyers senior forward. “He was a really good guy, really personable, and he took an interest in us.

“I remember I got to give him a commemorative jersey on Good Morning America. That was the coolest thing. I was one-on-one with this historical president and we just talked back and forth about basketball and my plans for the future, things like that.”

Somewhere in there Oliver made a standing invitation to Obama, a huge basketball fan who still hoops it up, to play him one-on-one.

Oliver went on to UD and, though he said he would have liked to have stayed in touch, he never heard from Obama again.

“I didn’t know the best method of reaching out to the President,” he said. “I just didn’t know how to go about it.”

Now he’s certainly found a way.

Oliver and the rest of the 11th-seeded Flyers already have pulled off two stunning upsets in the NCAA tournament, edging Ohio State, 60-59, last Thursday and two days later pushing aside Syracuse, 55-53.

After last Saturday’s game, Obama tweeted:

“Congrats to the Dayton Flyers on a huge upset win! Devin Oliver, I may need to take you up on that pick-up game one of these days – bo.”

Suddenly D-MO and BO are BFF.

“Winning is an incredible platform for communication,” Oliver said. “It’s been great.”

The scrappy, ever-resilient Flyers are one of the embraceable stories in the Sweet 16 and now, as they prep to play Stanford here in Memphis on Thursday night, folks everywhere are jumping on the bandwagon.

Even some who previously had jumped off.

Oliver came to Dayton as one of four players in Brian Gregory’s last recruiting class.

He certainly was not the most hyped of the lot, nor did he see much court time his freshman season.

Over the next two years, the other three would all transfer out of Dayton.

Juwan Staten left after his freshman season for West Virginia. Brandon Spearman lasted one year before heading first to an Iowa community college and then the University of Hawaii. Ralph Hill, Oliver’s roommate, stayed two seasons then opted for Oakland (Mich.).

“I love those guys – I will always love them,” Oliver said. “It would have been great if we all made it to the NCAA tournament, but it didn’t work out.”

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