CHICAGO — Dayton's Kendall Pollard is on a mission to prove last year's trip to the Elite Eight was no fluke.
"People keep saying 'They're not going to do it again,'" the former Simeon star said Thursday night. "Not too many people have faith in us, and they say we were a Cinderella story, but we're still here. We're going to keep punching."
Last year, Pollard and fellow Auburn Gresham native Kyle Davis of Morgan Park High School helped lead the Flyers to their first national quarterfinal since 1984.
Pollard, who won three state titles at Simeon, averaged about 2 points per game last season, but that number has ballooned to 11.2 ppg this year — third best on the Flyers.
Pollard said he's "starting to get more of a feel" for the college game.
"I've been playing more freely and getting more minutes, which is giving me more of an opportunity to show what I can do," Pollard said. "And I have to have confidence because my teammates believe in me. They give me the ball a lot and depend on me a lot."
In his last two games, the 6-foot-6 sophomore forward has tallied 43 total points, including a career-high 23 in Tuesday's 77-60 loss at Davidson.
"Kendall is starting to really gain confidence in his game; he’s so much better than he was a year ago, and it's a credit to him being coachable and his pride in improving," Dayton head coach Archie Miller said. "He plays to win and isn’t afraid of the moment, a lot of that has to do with coming from Simeon and their winning culture.
Miller added that Pollard has "a toughness to him and he can be very physical attacking, so we’ve tried to give more opportunities to do that and he’s starting to thrive.
"He’s what we thought he was coming out of high school and as he stays the course and honors the everyday grind, he has a chance to be a serious player here at Dayton," Miller said.
Tuesday's defeat dropped the No. 22 Flyers, who this week moved into the Top 25 for the first time this season, to 15-3. They next play Saturday at home against Richmond.
"I wouldn't call it fun being in the Top 25, but it's good that we're getting more recognition," Pollard said.
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