GOSHEN – Dayton Groninger is relishing her role to be a major contributor her freshman season on a talent-laden Indiana Wesleyan University women’s basketball team.
Her coach relishes the fact that she will be around for three more years.
The fit between the former Warsaw star and the perennially strong Wildcats program has been a win-win situation for all concerned for sure.
Groninger showcased her skills Wednesday night as No. 20 IWU topped host Goshen College 68-55 in a Crossroads League matchup.
Groninger, who became just the sixth player in program history at WCHS to score 1,000 points last season, has adapted quite nicely to coming off the bench for the Wildcats, who improved to 17-6 overall and 9-2 in league play with the win Wednesday night.
“It’s been different, but not tough to come off the bench,” said Groninger, who was a three-year standout for the Tigers. “The environment here is that everyone matters and I’m just trying to be a good role player for our team.
“I just try to stay focused and locked in at the start of the game. I just try to imagine that I’m playing the whole 40 minutes in the game each night.”
Groninger was the leading scorer for Warsaw each of the past three seasons, including last year when she averaged 16.5 points-per-game in leading her team to a 20-4 mark as one of six seniors for coach Michelle Harter’s squad. She completed her outstanding prep career by going over 1,000 career points in her final high school game, a loss to Northridge in a sectional semifinal game at Goshen. Groninger led Warsaw to a Class 4-A sectional title as a sophomore.
Groninger was the first player off the bench Wednesday night for the Wildcats. The smooth, versatile 5-10 forward has been averaging about 18 minutes per game this season. Groninger has made the most of her minutes, averaging eight points and almost four rebounds per game while shooting 38 percent from 3-point range and 88 percent from the free throw line.
“Honestly, I couldn’t ask for anything better,” remarked Groninger. “I have great teammates and great coaches here. The coaches believe in me and that’s a great thing. It allows me to just go out and play. It’s a great environment to play in.
“I’m really happy here. Not too many freshman get to average 18 minutes a game. It’s just been a blessing.”
Groninger, who was also a track standout and an outstanding student in the classroom at WCHS, has definitely made quite an impression on first-year IWU coach Ethan Whaley.
“Dayton is right where she needs to be,” said Whaley, who spent the past nine seasons coaching in the IWU men’s basketball program. “She comes in every days and grows and gets a little tougher every day. She’s hungry and she wants to get better.
“It speaks volumes that she is our sixth man right now as a freshman. Like all of our players, her role is to make the people around her better and she does that. Like all freshmen, consistency is the key for her. We just need to keep boosting her up as coaches.
“Dayton can score. Her nickname is the Walking Bucket. She can come in and get hot in a hurry and score points.”
Groninger just came off a fine outing Saturday in which she tallied 17 points in a 77-65 win over Spring Arbor. She had two points Wednesday night on a driving basket late in the third quarter, finishing 1-4 from the field in 15 minutes with four rebounds and an assist. Groninger did not play back on Nov. 29 when the Wildcats beat Goshen 83-56 after she hurt her ankle eight days earlier during her Homecoming game at Grace College.
“I’ve learned a lot in college and my defense is the biggest area that I have to work on,” recognized Groninger. “I also want to work on new moves offensively and just continue to develop my game there too. I’ve seen the areas where I need to grow as a player and been able to play a lot of minutes which has been nice.”
Groninger, the daughter of Jason and Erika Groninger, was a three-time first-team pick to the Ink Free News All-Area team during her outstanding high school career.
Whaley, whose team has won its last three games, sees a very bright future for No. 2.
“The ceiling is so hight for Dayton,” commented Whaley. “I have no doubt that she is just going to continue to get better because she wants to.
“She’s one of the most humble players on our team. I’m just so proud of her.
“I just love that kid.”
It’s easy to see why.