Dion Dacons had tried everything. The reserve forward on the men’s basketball team consulted books, friends and classmates last semester, trying to find the solution to a seemingly impossible math problem. Finally, after exhausting all the nearby resources, he called up the one person he knew could solve the equation: his older brother, Donovan.
“He knew how to work the problem, the whole nine,” Dacons said. “I brought the answer to my T.A. and she’s like, ‘That’s right.’ I always knew he was way smarter than me, but that was the cherry on top.”
By now, Dacons said, he has accepted that he has to study to no end in school while his brother excels off his natural gifts. Likewise, on the basketball court, Dacons said he knows he has to work twice as hard as the players who seem to dominate on talent alone.
That’s why Temple fans will see the same effort from Dacons in games in which he hardly plays as they will in games in which he logs 30 minutes, as he did Saturday against George Washington.
“I don’t want to jinx myself and not be consistent anymore, but [my effort] comes from the knowledge that if I don’t play like this, I’m not going to play,” he said. “My job, my position, can easily be replaced. You can find role players a dime a dozen. Night in and night out, I sort of don’t have a choice. I have to go out there and play hard.”
One of Dacons’ most impressive traits, coach John Chaney said, is his awareness of his limitations and what he has to improve on.
“Some players have an idea of what they’d like to do that’s not associated with their ability, and that can be a problem,” Chaney said. “But I think he understands what his ability is. He comes to practice every day with the same kind of motivation and the same kind of zeal.”
Dacons takes pride in being a garbage player. He averages just 1.8 points and 12.9 minutes per game, but he is third on the team in rebounds per minute played.
He said he learned how to be a role player in his first year at Oak Hill Academy after transferring from Statesville High School in North Carolina. At Oak Hill, he backed up current teammate Antywane Robinson, and Justin Gray and Richard Joyce of Wake Forest.
In fact, Dacons spent much of high school believing he would spend his college years playing for Wake Forest. But once Wake coach Dave Odom left for South Carolina and Dacons stopped scoring points in bunches and started doing the dirty work at Oak Hill, the Demon Deacons seemed to lose interest.
So when Wake Forest visited the Owls earlier this season, Dacons said everything felt right.
“A lot of the guys on the team were either friends or guys I played against,” he said. “I did think, three years ago when I was sitting with coach Odom in the locker room at Lawrence Joel [Colisseum], that I’d be a Demon Deacon.”
But he doesn’t concern himself with that now, Dacons said, nor does he concern himself with trying to compete for grades with his brother, who is currently a double major in computer programming and computer engineering at North Carolina State.
Dacons does the best with what he’s been given, he said. He is under consideration for an academic award from the NCAA with a 3.0 grade point average and plays extended minutes when Chaney needs his toughness. He’s prepared to out-study and outwork anyone.
“Some people can’t accept [hard work]; I can,” Dacons said. “If that’s how I’m going to be successful, then I’m going to do those things and everything else will fall into place.”
Benjamin Watanabe can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.