University of Louisville walk-on guard Dillon Avare is no stranger to being in the spotlight.
During his junior season at Lexington Catholic High School, the 5-foot-11 sharp-shooter earned his team a district championship by burying a three-pointer as time expired against Lafayette.
As a senior last season, Avare helped the team compile a 22-12 record while posting averages of 11.2 points, 4.3 assists, and 3 rebounds per game and tallying 82 three-pointers.
Since then Avare has competed in several high school all-stars games and even won the three-point shootout at the Kentucky Derby Festival high school all-star event.
But stepping onto the floor at the KFC Yum! Center for the first time as a Cardinal at the team's first Red-White Scrimmage of 2013 on Oct. 5 was something entirely new.
"It's a lot different," says Avare. "Just a bunch of people and bright lights."
Although he admits that the bigger stage can be a little intimidating, Avare has handled it well. In 21 minutes for the white team in the first scrimmage, Avare chipped in seven points- including one of his signature three's.. He played 27 minutes combined in the final two scrimmages without scoring.
Shaking off the nerves wasn't much of a challenge for Avare, but he's still trying to wrap his head around actually being part of a team that he has watched reach back-to-back Final Fours and bring home a national title.
"It's so crazy," Avare said of playing alongside his new teammates.
"I was actually on the court (in the first scrimmage) and I (said to) Russ (Smith), ‘Russ, this is so weird because I've been watching you all for three years, and now I'm actually out here with you.' It was pretty crazy."
But that surreal moment came close to not happening. The original plan was that Avare would play a year of prep school ball before moving on to college. A year to prepare would allow the 155-pound guard to fill out his frame and draw looks from more schools.
But when the opportunity to be a Cardinal became a possibility, Avare jumped at it.
"My first thought was to go to a prep school, just to get bigger an everything," Avare said. "But when the opportunity came up to come to Louisville, I took that right away because that was the best choice anybody could have made."
The decision to play at Louisville was not completely out of the blue. The Avare family has one big tie to the U of L basketball program: Avare's father is personal friends and a business associate of head coach Rick Pitino.
Avare's father, Rick, who played basketball at Transylvania University, has a relationship with the coach that dates back to Pitino's days at the University of Kentucky. Rick Avare serves mainly as a financial advisor for Pitino, but their friendship is so close that Pitino owns a horse named "Avare," in honor of his long-time pal.
"I've known (Pitino) my whole life, but not on a coach level," the younger Avare said. "So the relationship is a lot different. But it's cool (to see the other side)."
In addition to the family ties, walking-on at Louisville definitely earned some extra appeal after walk-on guard Tim Henderson, who had seen little playing time prior, hit two gigantic three-pointers in the 2013 Final Four to help lift the Cards over Wichita State.
"It makes us work harder and just be expecting of everything," Avare said of Pitino trusting every member of his team, no matter their scholarship status.
"Tim might not have thought that he would have gotten that opportunity, but he did. So we just have to always be ready."
Having learned from that moment, Henderson has been able to offer some wisdom and mentorship to Avare, as well.
"(Coach Pitino) doesn't care if it's me, if it's Dillon, doesn't matter who, if you're open, he wants you to shoot it, he's not going to get mad at you," Henderson said.
"I told (Avare) how it's going to be the first year. I said it's going to be hard, you just have to stick through it and grind through it if it's something that you really want to do."
"Because you never know, you might get the opportunity that I got."
It may take some time to adjust, develop, and improve, but as evidenced by his background, Avare isn't scared of the big stage. And if he should indeed get an opportunity similar to the one Henderson received, the three-point marksmen will step up to that familiar spot and calmly bury the shot- just as he did 82 times a year ago.