Ashford University men's basketball coach Oliver Drake thinks the world of former United Township prep Damon Overton, a freshman in the Saints program.|
"Damon is going to be as good as he wants to be,'' Drake said of Overton.
The Saints freshman has shown signs of brilliance early this season as he has already worked his way into the starting lineup and is one of Ashford's go-to players. Not only is he the team's third-leading scorer (10.9 points per game), but also is third on the team in average minutes (25.3) played per game.
"I didn't think I was going to see this much playing time,'' said the very reserved and quiet Overton, "but I've been working pretty hard.''
It was that hard work that actually moved Overton up the depth chart and into the starting lineup.
"I went a week and had great practices,'' said Overton. "Coach told me I was going to start.''
Both player and coach are hoping this is just the start of a big career. Drake likes what he hears from others about Overton, too, not relying on his own perception of the youngster. Drake said he was talking to Briar Cliff coach Nic Nelson after their game earlier this season and comparing notes on Overton, who had 14 points in that overtime loss.
"He has a first-team all-American on his team and when we got done playing, he said that kid wasn't as good as Damon is as a freshman,'' said Drake. "Damon has a chance to be as good as he wants to be.''
Overton, though, keeps that kind of talk in perspective.
"It means a lot to me, but I can't let that stuff get to my head,'' said Overton. "I just have to stay humble and keep working to get where I want to be in the future.''
The learning curve is big for the 6-foot-1 guard. He experienced that in this week's 76-67 victory over St. Ambrose in his first homecoming game back in the Quad-Cities this season. Overton showed flashes of being a "diaper dandy.'' On a breakaway, he put a move on in the open court that buckled an SAU defender's legs and left him on his backside as Overton cruised in for an easy bucket.
"He's unstoppable in transition,'' said Drake. "You saw that move and that was a pretty good defender of theirs.''
Overton also made a nice move into the lane and pulled up for a jumper on which he showed a deft touch.
But there were also some points he looked like a freshman. A couple of drives ended with his shots being blocked. Being out of position cost him two fouls early in the game and he spent the final 14:48 of the first half being a spectator.
That, though, is another part of that steep learning curve. Being one of eight freshmen – along with former Alleman prep Tyler Yeocum – it will be trial by fire for him on the court.
"He's having to battle through stuff,'' said Drake. "Whereas if we were a little deeper and a little more veteran, we would be pulling him. There isn't a guy coming in. We rely on him.''
Which is happening. And that's a good thing for him.
"As long as he handles it the right way and understands how much room for improvement he has and he has a ton of it,'' said Drake. "His up-side is through the roof. We're going to coach him up and he's going to continue to grow. ... D.O. is going to be a special player for us.''