Despite a lack of minutes early in the year, Kendall Pollard has played a big role in Dayton's tournament run.
Sometimes, it is about being in the right place at the right time.
Kendall Pollard, a freshman forward for the University of Dayton men's basketball team, averaged only 8.5 minutes a game heading into Thursday night's Regional Semifinal against Stanford at the FedEx Forum in Memphis.
But with the 11th-seeded Flyers battling foul trouble throughout their 82-72 win over the Cardinal -- the South's No. 10 seed -- Pollard was inserted into the lineup and scored 12 points on five-of-six shooting in 14 minutes.
"This guy's a big‑time winner," Dayton coach Archie Miller said of Pollard. "I give him some credit, though, I thought maybe in the last month of the season, rather than sticking to, 'Hey, I'll come to practice every day. If Coach puts me in, I'll be all right.' I thought he kicked it into another gear. He's not afraid of anything. He's been that way most of the year."
Pollard added, "Coach just put faith in me, put me out there for a good amount of minutes, and I just tried to capitalize and just do my best out there."
And playing on the big stage is something Pollard has done frequently in the past.
Pollard was a part of three Illinois state championship teams at Simeon Career Academy in his hometown of Chicago. Like Pollard, many of his teammates, including Duke freshman Jabari Parker, were able to earn scholarships to Division I schools.
"Kendall is a very confident player," redshirt junior guard Jordan Sibert said. "All the freshmen are. Throughout this entire year, we've been able to depend on them in tough moments. Any situation, they've been able to rise to the occasion.
"Just throughout the year, we try to just instill that, 'Hey, it doesn't matter -- senior, freshman, sophomore -- we're all out there. We're all together, and it doesn't matter, so just credit to them and credit to Kendall. (Thursday) night was his moment."
Senior guard Vee Sanford added, "It just shows how hard he works. He has that in his game. He does it in practice. He brings it to practice every day. You know, it was no surprise to us that are there with him practicing. Just as a whole, it could be anybody's night because we all work hard and we all believe in each other."
According to Miller, even when he has not played much in games, Pollard has brought an "aggressive" style from his hometown of Chicago to Dayton's practices, which has led to more playing time for a Flyers team in the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1984.
"He's had a very good bounce about him in terms of confidence, trying to make plays, and not just (Thursday). He's helped us in a lot of games," Miller said. "In particular right now, I really feel like we can trust him. He's earned that with the way he's prepared. He's come a long way like a lot of our guys have."
Along with guards Scoochie Smith and Kyle Davis, Pollard is one of three freshmen who have made an impact for the Flyers in their tournament run.
"The other two freshmen were on the floor with him at the same time in the first half when we had really good bounce about us," Miller said. "Those guys are really great kids, winners. They've really blended.
"It's been a sacrifice for everybody. (Pollard) didn't check into a couple games and maybe played one minute in a couple games in January and February. He's at his best now, and I think that's just a tribute to not only him, but everybody on our team to kind of stay with it. And their camaraderie, their togetherness has kind of led us to be sitting here."
For the Flyers, "here" is the Elite Eight, where they will take on the No. 1 seed in the South, the Florida Gators, tonight, and on the line is a Final Four berth, something Dayton has not achieved since 1967.
"This is a special group that's been able on the fly not playing and playing," Miller said. "They've been the same all the time. They don't get up or down if they don't get in the game. They just come ready."