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VOL. 43 | NO. 8 | Friday, February 22, 2019

Belmont's Windler building highlight reel of ‘crazy plays’

By Chip Cirillo

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Belmont’s Dylan Windler, a 6-foot-8 senior from Indianapolis, has the attention of NBA scouts who covet his scoring, rebounding, ball-handling abilities and knack for making game-winning plays.

-- Photograph Courtesy Of Scott Quintard

Picking the best wow moment for Dylan Windler is difficult because there have been so many. There was Feb. 9 when the Belmont forward scored a career-high 41 points in a win at Morehead State.

Or Jan. 26 when he scored 20 consecutive points to rally the Bruins from a 14-point deficit in a victory at Austin Peay.

Or his 36-point, 20-rebound performance – the first 30/20 in Belmont history – in a win against Morehead last season.

“That had everybody shaking their heads,” Bruins coach Rick Byrd recalls.

Byrd and teammate Michael Benkert’s favorite is the night in 2016 when Windler caught a long pass from Evan Bradds before making a reverse layup at the buzzer to beat archrival Lipscomb 64-62.

“That was a crazy play,” Benkert says. “When that happened, I was star-struck. That was amazing.”

Lipscomb’s Rob Marberry tied the game at 62 on a jump shot with 2.8 seconds remaining, right before Bradds and Windler stunned the Bisons.

Windler, an All-America candidate, ranks among Ohio Valley Conference leaders in 11 statistical categories. The 6-foot-8 senior led the OVC in rebounding (10.5) and was third in scoring (20.8) entering Thursday’s game against Eastern Illinois.

“He’s unusual in that he’s talented in so many different areas,” Byrd says. “He’s a kid with size that’s a great rebounder, but he’s also got all perimeter skills. Even plays point guard for us at times when we need him to be there.”

Windler defends post players, point guards and perimeter players. He can play all over the floor on both ends of the court.

A Mid-Major All-American last season, Windler is one of the OVC’s top 3-point shooters with a 40.9 percent clip. His favorite spot beyond the arc is on the wings.

“I try to do my best mixing it up,” Windler explains. “It keeps people on their toes, knowing that you can shoot it from range, you can pump fake it to the rim. It’s hard to guard, so I try to be a multidimensional player.”

Containing Windler is a difficult challenge for any team that faces him. He has 31 career double-doubles and is the nation’s only player averaging at least 20 points, 10 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game.

“His versatility is what makes him so good,” Lipscomb coach Casey Alexander says. “I mean, his length and his ability to do everything, play all over the floor. He can guard the other team’s best player, he’s a really good shooter with range, he can also put the ball on the floor. He’s a great rebounder for a perimeter player.”

Windler is a finalist for the Julius Erving Small Forward of the Year Award, as is Tennessee’s Admiral Schofield. Bradds was a finalist in 2017.

“He’s just a dynamic offensive threat and he’s really good defensively as well,” Lipscomb guard Garrison Mathews adds. “All around, he’s got a great game and he’s fun to play against.”

Windler has led the Bruins to nine straight wins, putting them in a first-place tie with Murray State in the OVC. Both teams are 21-4 overall and 12-2 in the league.

Belmont, which upset UCLA in December, is seeking its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2015.

“We’ve struggled the past few years, so it’s definitely a major task,” Windler says. There are some really good teams at the top of the OVC with Murray, Austin Peay and Jacksonville State.

“I think we’re starting to peak at the right time.”

Windler says he believes good instincts are a big key for his rebounding prowess.

“Knowing where the ball is going to go off the rim and having a good mentality about crashing the boards every time,” Windler adds. “My teammates do a really good job of boxing out, so a lot of times I’m just crashing from the perimeter, and they do a really good job of clearing out some space for me.”

Windler shoots left-handed, but he likes to drive right and finish right.

He considered becoming a college golfer before getting noticed by college basketball coaches late in his high school career at Perry Meridian in Indianapolis.

“In high school my best (handicap) was 1 or 2,” says Windler, whose average drive is 300 yards. “It’s a matter of whether I can keep it straight or not.”

His mother Karen was also a standout basketball player at Perry Meridian.

Windler is getting plenty of looks from NBA scouts. Bleacherreport.com ranked him as the draft’s No. 46 prospect in October and cbssports.com projected him as a second-round selection.

“He’s getting considerable attention, probably more than any player we’ve had,” Byrd says. “He’s on the radar and he’s playing great. I suspect that either at games or practices this year that the vast majority of the NBA teams have seen him play live.”

Byrd, who won his 799th career game Saturday against Tennessee Tech, adds he’s never had a player as versatile at Windler.

“He’s such a complete basketball player that I find that I don’t want to take him out of the game,” Byrd says. “I think he played 40 minutes at Morehead State the other night for that reason.”

Byrd notes he believes Windler’s best trait is his understanding of the game.

“I think there are people who are gifted in terms of just knowing how to win a game, what makes the most sense,” Byrd says.

“There are a lot of talented plays that don’t have that particular gift. (John McPhee) wrote a book a long time ago (about) Bill Bradley called “A Sense of Where You Are,” and he’s got that same kind of understanding.”

Windler knows when to backdoor his man, when to come off the screen, the right pass to make when he’s dribbling off a ball screen.

Some is learned, some is a gift, Byrd says, adding, “I think he would be on the short list of one of the best that’s played here.’’

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