Dayon sisters take FDU-Florham to next level

Kara Dayon (top) and Kyra Dayon (above) have helped elevate FDU-Florham into a Top 10 team.
FDU-Florham athletics photos 

FDU-Florham junior guards Kyra and Kara Dayon are a pair of fun-loving twins who like to laugh, play basketball, watch “The Jamie Foxx Show” and eat seafood. The Geminis from Trenton, N.J., are extremely close and having a blast contributing to the success of 17-0 and ninth-ranked FDU-Florham women’s basketball team.

Since they are roommates, Kara witnesses a sarcastic side of Kyra on occasion, especially if Kara moved one of Kyra’s belongings out of place. Kyra, who is older by one minute, is particular about how she arranges objects in her room. Kyra knows exactly how she folded her clothes and stacked books on her desk.

“She’s the mean one,” Kara said. “Here’s a good example. If I move something, she’ll yell, but then she’ll say ‘I am sorry, I didn’t think that’s where it was supposed to be.’ I love her because she’s always there for me. She gets in my head and keeps me motivated. Tonight I didn’t score (against Eastern), but she was right there to tell me that my defense was good and she said at least you’re getting stops.”

The Dayon sisters have an unbreakable bond. They are the second set of fraternal twin sisters in their family. Their older sisters, Cora and Coral are twins as well and they played at Trenton Central High School. Kyra and Kara deepened those footsteps and raised the bar of success during their careers at Trenton Central by leading the Tornadoes to numerous playoff appearances and four winning seasons. 

“We are always around each other,” Kyra said. “There’s not a day that doesn’t go by that I can get mad at her or tell her to get out of my face. I don’t know, I just love being around her and it doesn’t get boring.”

The Dayons have also kept their fans entertained as they have helped lift the FDU-Florham program to unimaginable heights during a memorable beginning to this season. Currently, the Devils are off to their best start in school history. They have their sights on goals higher than just qualifying for the NCAA Division III tournament for the second straight season.

Averaging 15.8 points per game, 8.0 rebounds, 3.4 steals and 3.1 assists per game, Kyra is a ruthless scorer who combines textbook fundamentals with mesmerizing flair. One of the most exciting players in the nation, Kyra has a feathery jump shot along with a smorgasbord of offensive moves that make whenever she has the ball a must-see event. She can bang down low with bigger and stronger defenders, jump out the gym, break ankles of slower defenders, shoot over mesmerized opponents and get her teammates great looks anytime she wants to.

Kyra has reached double figures 15 times this season and has posted four double-doubles. She has scored at least 20 points four times this year following her 24-point effort against Wilkes in a 70-59 win last Saturday. That performance upped her career point total to 1,198.

Kara has cat-like quickness and often resembles a human handcuff because of her ability to play lock-down defense. She averages 8.8 points per game, 3.9 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 2.5 steals. Kara hit for a season-high 20 points against Manhattanville two weeks ago. Beneath Kara and Kyra’s affable veneers is the fierceness of a lion.

Kyra, who enjoys watching Rajon Rondo, had her choice of schools as she has the game to make an impact on the Division II and mid-major Division I level, but two reasons she ended up at FDU-Florham was the opportunity to continue playing with her sister, Kara, and because of head women’s basketball coach Marc Mitchell.

“They are fantastic kids,” Mitchell said. “They bring balance to our practices and they make me laugh which is hard to do. They’re just great for our program. In the recruiting process one of the first things I said to her brother (Clifford Williams) that if they come to FDU, they will change our entire program and they have.”

The twin connection was never more evident than during a basketball showcase at FDU-Teaneck, the summer before their senior year at high school. On one court and under the watchful eye of FDU-Florham assistant coach Jessica Cavaco, Kara was devouring the competition. On another court with Mitchell observing, Kyra was dominating.

When the two coaches got together to compare notes, they were both raving about Kara and Kyra without knowing they were twin sisters in the beginning. From there, one or both of them were fixtures in the stands in Tornado Alley, the affectionate name for Trenton Central’s gym.

Mitchell still mixes up the Dayon twins even though they are usually distinguishable by their hairstyles and bright fluorescent sneakers. Kyra wears her hair down while Kara wears her hair in a stylish bun. Mitchell affectionately refers to them by their uniform numbers “15” and “14.”

Not only did Mitchell get the Dayon sisters from Trenton Central, he also got Quaneshia Harrison and Robin Peoples from that same team. Just a quick thought, maybe the iconic neon-lighted sign on the Route 1 bridge across the Delaware River, should have been rewritten: “Trenton Makes FDU-Florham Takes.”

The Dayons were three-sport standouts at Trenton Central High and spent most of their time growing up in New Jersey’s capital city by playing in several sport leagues and in the gym with their older brother, who was an assistant coach for Trenton Central. They were always at games and in the summer, their brother, who the Dayons consider most influential in beginning their careers, would teach them the fundamentals of the game like shooting, dribbling and more.

The gym was a safe haven as they helped the Dayons avoid falling prey to trappings of Trenton, an inner-city in which hoop dreams deflate and the young often die too soon.

“We moved to Trenton when we were 5,” Kyra said. “My mother taught us a lot of what not to do and always stressed to us watch who you hang around. That helped us be different from everybody else. We’re very blessed. Trenton is a tough city, but we did a lot of activities like playing soccer, flag football and softball when we were younger.”

Meanwhile, the Devils appear to have all the ingredients to play deep into March. They are experienced, talented, balanced, athletic, quick, and aggressive on defense. There aren’t many holes in this year’s FDU-Florham squad.

In addition to the Dayons, sophomore Schalette Brown, a transfer from Montclair State, is a double-double machine. Brown has six double-doubles this season and averages 11.1 points per game along with 9.1 rebounds per outing. Junior Leigh-Ann Lively averages 8.2 points and has made 27 3-pointers. Senior guard Jaleesa Lewis is a strong floor general averaging 7.6 points per game. Harris is rock under the basket and on defense.

Kyra might be the centerpiece of the Devils with her unique and extraordinary ability, but she is thrilled to be just one of the players on the team and blessed to be able to share her college experience with Kara.

Against an improving Eastern squad last Thursday, the Devils were pushed for the first time this year. They led Eastern by two points with 10 minutes remaining. A few 3-point baskets and steals later, FDU-Florham was ahead by 16 points on its way to a more-comfortable-than-it-looked, 76-58 win. The Devils were thankful for the challenge and being forced to earn their 16th win.

“It was definitely intense, but we need these types of games to go into the tournament,” Kyra said. “A game like this will help us in postseason because we know it won’t be easy and we have to know what to do in close games so they we don’t get all hectic and all out of control.”

The Dayons are cherishing every moment together in the navy blue-and-burgundy. Both ladies are majoring in computer science. Kyra wants to use her degree to be a support specialist and assist people with software issues. Kara’s aspiration is to be a computer technician. When it was suggested that they open their own computer business, their faces lit up like a Christmas tree.

They may be gifted when it comes to the rudiments of the game, but it’s their character, selflessness, pleasant attitude and ability to bring smiles to others that make them special.

Legal Louison

St. Joseph’s (Bklyn.) junior forward David Louison is excelling in all facets of his life. On the court, he is averaging 18.1 points and rebounds. He has scored 1,046 career points and has 32 double-doubles, which is seventh among active players in Division III. He has scored at least 20 points in three of the Bears’ last five games.

In the classroom, Louison has a 3.92 grade point average. Outside of school, Louison is making his dreams come true by working as a legal clerk intern in the civil division of the U.S. Attorney's Office- Southern District of New York (USAO).

A criminal justice major, Louison wants to be a paralegal after his playing days are finished. He’s been employed as a student clerk since June 2012. Among some of his responsibilities was managing the case file database for new incoming cases, receiving civil complaints on behalf of the USAO, and ensuring the delivery of legal documents to the courthouses. He also did special case-related projects whenever an attorney needs assistance. 

“I've loved my job since the day I started because of the exposure to the legal field that I've so long wanted a career in.” Louison said. “I'm able to interact with federal attorneys on a daily basis, and I'm able to learn the nuances of the many court procedures. The attorneys are also aware of my career path, so they're really helpful and advise me with tips to guide me along the way.”

Since the USAO is short-staffed at the moment, Louison is sometimes called upon to work on specific cases and perform paralegal-caliber tasks. This has been a perfect opportunity for him to get a feel for the field he wants to enter. It's great because he plans on becoming a paralegal after he graduates from SJC. Louison said that the most exciting and interesting moment for him at the USAO was his involvement in the U.S. v. Bank of America Corp. case.

“The office took an ‘all hands on deck’ approach when handling this major case, which allowed me to work on projects that I wouldn't have worked on otherwise,” Louison said. “I was able to perform paralegal tasks by reading rebuttals and fact checking the work and references of our attorneys. Although my role was rather small, I was constantly reminded of its importance and it meant a lot to be trusted and relied upon by those in need. The government victory in the case made my participation in the case that much sweeter.” 

DiDomenico finding stroke

After some early struggles with her shooting, Eastern 5-5 junior guard Gina DiDomenico has been on fire for the last couple of weeks for Eastern. She was a guiding force during the Eagles’ four-game winning streak that was ended by No. 9 FDU-Florham, 76-58. The Devils had a devil of time containing DiDomenico, who scored 16 points.

She has scored in double figures in five straight games. DiDomenico scored 22 points in consecutive games against Keystone and Misericordia. In the win over Keystone, DiDomenico made six 3-pointers and handed out nine assists. She leads Eastern with 29 3-pointers. DiDomenico will have to keep lighting it up from distance if she wants to eclipse her total of 54, which was a school record, she made last year as a sophomore.

“I think I am playing more for the fun of the game instead of focusing on the other team or my anxiety,” DiDomenico said. “I am playing because I love to play basketball.”

DiDomenico developed her love of the game in sixth grade in her hometown of Ocean City, N.J. This may be hard to believe for those grown accustomed to watching DiDomenico knock down shot after shot lately, but shooting didn’t always come easy to her. She admitted that the only reason why her first coach kept her on the team was because of her hustle and defense.

Fortunately, her father, Jim was a sharpshooting guard who played at Glassboro State, now Rowan, long before became a reality. He helped his daughter develop into a strong shooter through countless drills and numerous hours of practice. DiDomenico is an exercise science major and she’s looking to go to physical therapy school and possibly one day help run a hospital and help rehab patients.

“Sometimes she surprises herself and doesn’t always see the progress that she’s made,” Eastern coach Nate Davis said. “I talked with her about that the other day. She’s on an unbelievable streak shooting the ball the last three games.

Overall, DiDomenico is part of a bright nucleus for an Eagle team with no seniors that has turned it around after a 0-3 start. The Eagles have gone 10-4 since with two losses in that span to top 10 teams Hope and FDU-Florham. The Eagles added another historic moment to their season by earning their first win in program history at DeSales on Saturday. The Eagles had been 0-14 at DeSales before Saturday's 69-58 win.

Junior Meghan Nowak is the leading scorer (16.1 points per game) and rebounder (9.0 rpg). Junior guard Kaitlyn Dougherty scores at an 11.8 point per game clip. Emily Lavin is a 6-1 freshman center with 47 blocked shots and four straight double-figure rebounding games. Lavin grabbed 21 rebounds against Keystone and blocked seven shots against King’s.

Rebecca the rebounding queen

Yeshiva’s Rebecca Yoshor has been a forgotten player lately even though she leads the nation in rebounding with a 16.9 per game average. Part of the reason why is Yeshiva was off for 38-days before dropping a 62-42 decision to Albany Pharmacy on Sunday. The 6 foot senior from Houston, has grabbed at least 20 rebounds four times this season, including 29 boards against Vaughn. Yosher also has eight double-doubles this season after her 15-point, 16-rebounding effort against Albany Pharmacy. She opened the season with a spectacular 34-point, 25-rebound performance against a Division III school, Anna Maria. With a 5-7 overall record, the Maccabees have already equaled last year’s win total.

Heart-stopping Hood

Whenever attending a Hood game lately, make sure you stay until the end. The Blazers are specializing in dilly-dallying with the cardio-vascular system lately as they have won their last three games in the final five seconds, which gives Hood four wins that way this year. Cameron Cook had a memorable week for Hood, which has won 10 of its last 11 games. Cook made a buzzer beater to give Hood a 78-77 win over No. 17 Messiah and he made two free throws to win with 4.1 seconds to help the Blazers beat Lebanon Valley, 62-61 on Wednesday. Chris Cook nailed a 25-footer last Saturday with 1.7 seconds left to help Hood stun Widener, 92-89 and Cameron Cook had a put back on New Year’s for a win with 3.3 to go.

Knight block party

Senior forward Joe Henain blocked a pair of shots on Saturday to tie the program career mark with 161, as the Mount Saint Mary men picked up a big 94-81 Skyline Conference victory over Farmingdale on Saturday. The Knights have won five straight games to raise their record to 13-4 overall. Henain also picked up his ninth double-double of the season with 17 points and 10 rebounds to go along with his pair of blocks. Senior forward Chris Pisciotta kept his hot streak going with 23 points, nine boards and four assists, while senior guard Donte Howell hit 5-of-8 threes en route to a 21-point effort. Pisciotta averaged 21.5 points in two wins last week for the Knights. Two of their four losses have been to conference playmate SUNY-Purchase and Wesley, a pair of teams with a combined 28-1 record.

Sizzling Staten Island

The Staten Island women ran their winning streak to 10 games by edging Brooklyn 78-75 in overtime Saturday. Two of the Dolphins last three wins have been in overtime. Against Brooklyn, Staten Island saw a 24-point first half lead evaporate. Sophomore Megan Myhre scored a season-high 26 points in the win over Brooklyn. It was her fourth game this year scoring at least 20 points. She is averaging 14.2 points per game. Myhre has made 68 3-pointers after tying her season-high with seven against Brooklyn. Melanie Johnson leads the Dolphins in scoring with an 18.2 point per game average. Katelyn Hepworth (12.6 points per game, 8.2 rebounds per game) and Lisa Galasso (11.3) also average double-digits for the balanced Dolphins, who’s average margin of victory has been a whopping 16.2 points per game.

Terrific Tallamy

Muhlenberg is on a roll - five wins in six games, including Saturday’s 58-54 win at Johns Hopkins, which was previously undefeated in the Centennial Conference. Leanna Tallamy has led the team in scoring in all six of those games (20.2 points per game) to take over the conference scoring lead, and she's on pace to break the school record for free throws in a season. She scored 16 points against Johns Hopkins. She's averaging 17.8 points and 8.0 rebounds. (More on Tallamy in a future column.)

Atlantic Rim-Rockers

Trinity (D.C.) Ashley Brown, a 5-9 junior from Washington, D.C., scored 26 points and grabbed 15 rebounds to lead the Tigers to a 70-54 win over Valley Forge Christian on Saturday. ... Andre Nixon and Joel Neri combined for 43 points to help No. 14 Purchase remain perfect and survive St. Joseph’s (L.I.) upset bid, 67-63. ... After enduring a 12-game losing streak, Mount St. Vincent has won four straight games after downing NYU-Poly, 76-59. Freshman Khalil Shorter scored a career-high 13 points and was one of 12 players to find the scoring column against NYU-Poly. ... The Staten Island men stretched their winning streak to 14 games by beating York (80-75) and Brooklyn (86-58). In the win over Brooklyn, 12 players scored for CSI. ... Ramapo junior Jackie Jerkovich averaged 14 points in a pair of Roadrunner wins over New Jersey City and Rutgers-Camden. ... Sophomore forward David Azoroh erupted for a career-high 30 points and Rutgers-Newark used a second-half rally to down Montclair State, 91-69 for its seventh straight win. ... Justin Garcia scored his 1,000th career point for Rutgers-Newark in a win over Rutgers-Camden. ... Brittany Hicks helped York (Pa.) improve to 17-0, 9-0 in the CAC, with 22 points and 15 rebounds in the Spartans' 61-58 win over Mary Washington.

Mid-Atlantic Crossovers

Alvernia men have won four straight games following its 73-58 win over Lebanon Valley. ... McDaniel freshman Nick Perugino went 5-for-6 from long range to lead the Green Terror to their sixth straight victory with 15 points in a 78-69 victory over Ursinus. As a team, McDaniel hit a season-best 11 3-pointers. ... No. 3 Cabrini will be tested this week with a road game at red-hot Gwynedd Mercy on Thursday and a home date with No. 12 Wesley on Monday night. ... The Lancaster Bible men are 7-0 in the NEAC and have a five-game winning streak, its longest since the 2004-05 season, after beating Penn State-Lehigh Valley, 68-51. ... Becky Bard scored 25 points to help Mount Aloysius push its winning streak to seven with a 78-60 victory over Medaille in AMCC action on Saturday. The Mounties are 10-6 overall. 

Ryan Scott

Ryan Scott is a long-time D-III basketball supporter and former player currently residing in Middletown, Del., where he serves as a work-at-home dad, doing freelance writing and editing projects. He has written for multiple publications across a wide spectrum of topics. Ryan is a graduate of Eastern Nazarene College and is immensely happy this is no longer a laugh line among the D-III basketball community.
2013-14 columnist: Rob Knox
2012-13 columnist: Pete Barrett
2011-12 columnist: Brian Lester