As a high school freshman, Dyaisha Fair made her coaches a promise.
She was going to be the best player they had ever seen.
But she wasn’t being arrogant. She was simply stating the truth.
Fair now looks back knowing she kept that promise. In her four seasons at Edison Tech, she elevated the school’s women’s basketball program. By her senior year, she was the Inventors’ captain and led them to an 18-4 record as the All-Greater Rochester Player of the Year. And it’s no different at UB, where Fair shines as the sixth-leading scorer in the nation at 21 points per game.
“It’s really a shocker,” Fair said of this accomplishment. “I just try not to pay attention and keep my head down and take it day by day.”
But the number on the board isn’t Fair’s priority.
It’s the number on her chest that matters.
In 2002, Fair’s grandmother was diagnosed with breast cancer. And after two years, she beat it. She selected the number “two” to pay homage to her hero.
As Fair got older, her grandmother pushed her to branch out into more activities. But Fair knew basketball was her passion. From the age of five, Fair would watch her uncles play hoop in the backyard and knew she loved the game. Although her grandmother would try to get her to go to dance class, Fair’s goals were different.
But basketball wasn’t always an obvious choice — at 5’5”, she is the second-shortest player on the team, ahead of only junior guard Hanna Hall, at 5’3”.
But like everything else in her life, Fair has approached her lack of size with a can-do attitude. She has been described by the people around her as having a little pitbull mentality: She knows she has to be better because she is smaller.
Legette-Jack saw that from the moment Fair stepped onto UB’s campus.
“She came to my camp. She was playing pickup and I thought ‘Wow, she’s pretty special, let me see how special she is.’ We started playing two-on-two pickup … her twitch was so fast, I’ve never seen anything like it,” Legette-Jack said. “This is a local kid that we have to keep. We stuck with her for a few years and she decided this was the place for her.”
In high school, Fair received offers from major programs like Syracuse and UConn, but she knew UB was the place for her as soon as she stepped foot on campus.
“When I came on my official visit with my brother and my mom, it just felt as if we were here before,” Fair said. “I had some offers from some other major programs, but I ended up choosing UB because of the way that I felt.”
Coming to UB gave Fair another opportunity to be a leader. Unlike in larger programs, where she would have been overshadowed by bigger recruits, Fair has been forced into taking on a leadership role at UB.
Not only is Fair the sixth-leading scorer in the country, she is also a fierce rebounder, averaging 5.6 boards per game.
“We’re the youngest team in the country, and she’s the one that’s been doing it all,” head coach Felisha Legette-Jack said. “It’s a lot on her, but through the fire I think we’ll find clarity and she’s going to become very special.”
Legette-Jack is impressed with how Fair has played, but she worries that her offensive numbers are the result of her being forced to lead the team in scoring every night.
“We need her to score 22 points per-game, in order to have a chance,” Legette-Jack said last week. “In order for us to even have a chance she has to play 35 minutes and put the ball in the hole for us.”
Just as Legette-Jack has looked to Fair to provide scoring, Fair has looked to Legette-Jack for mentorship both on and off the court.
“Of course we have our ups and our downs along the way, but she’s a phenomenal woman,” Fair said. “She [is] the best coach I’ve ever had and I admire her for not just what she’s done on the court but off the court too.”
Legette-Jack isn’t surprised with Fair’s dominance this season.
“When you’re dealing with top 10 teams, they have a balanced attack. Everyone was an All-American, the best player in their state, and their equality is great,” Legette-Jack said. “She means a lot to this team.”
The sports desk can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Alex Lenneberg is an assistant sports editor for The Spectrum.