Dials, the 6-foot freshmen guard from Willard, Ohio has been doing things the hard way for years. Not just the hard way, the right way. Dials is now preparing for his second season as a member of the Ohio State Buckeyes, and despite having already exceeded many people's expectations and silenced many of his harshest critics, he's not about to let up.
"I'm just going to keep working hard and do the things I've always done," said Dials, during a break in the action while attending a high school regional tournament team involving his alma mater Willard at Toledo. "This is nothing new to me. I've had a basketball in my hand for well over ten years."
The statistics bear out that fact, too. Dials completed his tenure at Willard as one of the top ten scores of all time in the state of Ohio. He finished his career averaging 28 points a game, and was also one of the all-time leading free throw shooters, shooting 86 percent.
"In a lot of ways I miss the high school atmosphere," Dials said. "I miss not having the same number of fans home or away, and not having that personal feel. But this is great."
Of course, it would be even better if OSU were participating in some form of March Madness. The Buckeyes missed the postseason altogether for the first time since 1998 after finishing 14-16.
Dials found his way to Columbus following a personal workout back in February 2003 for head coach Jim O'Brien. Despite yielding several offers from Division I basketball programs, Dials turned them down to be a preferred walk-on for the Buckeyes, never being guaranteed of having a scholarship.
When OSU had an available scholarship last fall, O'Brien offered it for at least one year to Dials. His status for future years will be decided on a yearly basis.
He has already overcome numerous setbacks in his short time as a Buckeye. He was unable to play any summer league basketball because of a previous hip injury. More recently, he's just begun to recover from a torn tendon in his shooting wrist.
Despite the injuries, Dials continued to do what he's done best: work hard. In the fall, he took a job at The Schottenstein Center, just so after his shift he could get some shooting time in the gymnasium.
He started the season having absolutely no expectations of what was in store for him.
"I just wanted to come in, impress the coaches, and play my game," Dials said. "I didn't really have any expectations of how much I would play right away."
It didn't take long whatsoever for Dials to do just that, impress people. Although it didn't translate to immediate playing time, Dials made a name in practice. While O'Brien missed several weeks before the season following his surgery to repair a damaged vocal cord, assistant coach Rick Boyages, noted how remarkable a marksman from long-range that Dials was.
It wasn't until nearly 10 games into the season did finally Dials get his chance to prove what he could do, although it wasn't in ideal circumstances. After several starters drew the iron fist of O'Brien for a lacking hustle and reluctance to play disciplined basketball, Dials finally got his first start of his career against Eastern Illinois.
"I wasn't really expecting anything like that this season," Dials said. "I just continued to play the way I knew how, and it paid off."
Dials' first career start was a success. He finished the game shooting 3-of-6 from three-point range for nine points, playing 19 minutes and committing no turnovers.
He quickly became a fan favorite for his floor burns, his hustle, his impressionable court savvy, and most of all, his intensity. If that weren't enough, he followed up his debut with another 3-of-6 performance from beyond the arc against Dartmouth, solidifying his long-range prowess. He also finished the game playing 33 minutes, while committing no turnovers.
As the season wore on, Dials wore down. For several games Dials was playing nearly 40 minutes a game, quite an adjustment for an 18-year-old coming straight from high school. But Dials insists the adjustment from high school to college hasn't been tough on him, at least, on the court.
"It's still basketball," Dials said. "I still go out there and do what I know how to do. It wasn't that big of an adjustment for me to actually play the game. The biggest difference is everything that comes with it. The workout programs, the preparations, the off-season conditioning, all of those things."
As the physical nature of Big Ten conference play started to take its' toll, Dials' shots began missing more frequently. While the coaches knew of an aching wrist, the assumption by everyone, fans and coaches alike, was that his legs were just simply wearing down.
"I played with it (the injury) for a couple of weeks," Dials said. "It was really bothering me. I talked to the trainer about it, and after we found out the extent of the injury he suggested I should either sit out for a while until it was better, or have surgery after the season to repair it. The decision was a no-brainer."
Dials returned to the rotation for home games against Penn State and Illinois to end the season. His energy and enthusiasm was evident in the season finale against the Illini, where Dials was in the lineup nearly the entire second half. It was during that time, the Buckeyes nearly rallied from 17 points down.
Much of the near-comeback was done with the future of Ohio State basketball on the floor together. Terence Dials, Ricardo Billings, Tony Stockman, Nick Dials, and his freshmen roommate Ivan Harris gave Buckeye fans a lot to look forward to. Dials and Harris constantly attempt to help each other improve.
"We're on break right now, so I won't see Ivan for a few weeks," Dials said. "But we talk a lot about basketball and are always looking to help ourselves improve any way we can."
Dials said the coach has not specifically made any requests of what to improve upon, but when he does, he'll have his usual willingness to take it all in.
"Coach hasn't said anything to me so far," Dials said. "If he does, I'll listen to what he has to say and do whatever he wants me to do."
He says the team will have a chip on their shoulders given the disappointing season, and is very aware of what they need to do to improve.
"Everyone has to improve, and we all know that," Dials said. "I think this season really will serve as a reminder to everyone what they have to do, and we are vowing not to let it happen again."
He finished the season averaging 4.5 points a game in just 17 minutes per contest. He also finished the season shooting 36 percent from behind the arc.
As always, Dials was nearly automatic from the charity stripe where he was 22-of-25 on the season. The most impressive statistic of all, however, is his nearly 3-to-1 turnover ratio (40 to 14) when spending time in the backcourt.
While he prepares for his second season at Ohio State, you can safely assume he will continue to quiet his detractors. They say the early bird catches the worm, or the earlier you get the bait out, the more the fish bite. But when you get to the lake before the sun rises, Dials will already be in the water with his trousers up to his knees, and putting food on his table the unconventional way.