Cedarville will bring experienced team into exhibition game against Dayton

Yellow Jackets, Flyers play at 7 p.m. Monday at UD Arena

Cedarville University basketball fans have tried hard to find to find tickets — beyond the handful given to them by the University of Dayton — to the men’s basketball team’s exhibition game against the Dayton Flyers at 7 p.m. Monday at UD Arena.

“Everybody I’ve talked to says they can’t find them anywhere,” coach Pat Estepp said Tuesday. “I’m guessing with UD’s fan base, which couldn’t watch them last year, I would be shocked if this thing wasn’t sold out.”

Two years ago, the last time Dayton played an exhibition game, it also played Cedarville and put 13,207 fans in the stands. There were plenty of verified resale tickets available on Ticketmaster.com as of Tuesday, but there still should be a big crowd, easily the largest crowd to see the Flyers or Yellow Jackets play since the pandemic began in 2020.

The fans will see a young Dayton team with seven newcomers among 13 scholarship players and an experienced Cedarville roster with four seniors and two graduate students.

“Our roster will look very similar to the team that played there two year ago,” Estepp said.

Dayton won that game 93-60, kicking off a season that would see the program rise to No. 3 in the Associated Press poll and finish the regular-season 29-2. Cedarville finished 21-8 that season and then 19-6 last season when it fell one victory short of making the NCAA Division II tournament, losing 77-59 to Malone in the Great Midwest Athletic Conference tournament championship game.

Five of Cedarville’s top-six scorers in the game against Dayton are still with the team: Brandon Maughmer; Conner TenHove; Quinton Green; Kollin Van Horn; and Isaiah Speelman. All five of those players averaged in double figures last season.

“We have five seniors on our team who — if everybody stays healthy — will score over 6,000 points combined in their careers,” Estepp said, “so this is a special group of seniors.”

The only player from the 2019-20 roster who played double-figure minutes that season and is no longer with the Yellow Jackets is Wayne High School graduate Demond Parker. He was an assistant coach on Estepp’s staff last season and now is a graduate assistant at Baylor.

Of the seniors on the team this season, only TenHove, who’s from Valparaiso, Ind., faced the decision of whether to return this season to take advantage of the extra year of eligibility the NCAA gave to every player because of the pandemic.

“He was going to redshirt because of all the uncertainty of what was going on the summer before COVID,” Estepp said. “He didn’t want that to be his senior year. Then when they gave everybody the extra year back, he went ahead and played. He was coming back this year almost regardless.”

One of Cedarville’s newcomers to watch is Brayden Sipple, a 6-foot-4 guard from Blanchester. He finished his high school career as Ohio’s 12th all-time leading scorer (2,485 points).

“He had a couple of Horizon League offers,” Estepp said. “We’re excited about him and a couple of other young guys.”

Estepp also has a new coach on staff who will be familiar to local basketball fans. James Cooper starred at South High School in Springfield and then the College of Wooster, which inducted him into its hall of fame in 2018. Cooper is a part-time assistant who’s also coaching the JV team.

“He’s been tremendous,” Estepp said. “He’s been a really good addition. It’s his first time coaching. So he’s learning and we’re learning. He’s got a great heart. He does tremendous things for the city of Springfield. He’s really trying to make an impact there.”

Estepp’s team enjoyed a normal offseason and preseason this year, a big departure from last season when they were supposed to play an exhibition game against Dayton again. That game was cancelled one day before it was scheduled to be played because of a positive COVID-19 test among Cedarville’s Tier 1 personnel.

Last week, Estepp took his team on its annual retreat to the Scioto Hills Church Camp near Portsmouth, where he grew up. His parents fed the players dinner. Players who have never swung an axe in their life chopped wood for the camp. It was a weekend full of team-building exercises.

“We take no cell phones,” Estepp said. “The guys love it. I don’t know if they love not having their cell phones, but they do enjoy the time together. Every year at the end of the season, it’s one of the things that our seniors always say, ‘Don’t ever quit doing it.’ It’s good for us. It’s always about teaching life lessons.”

While preseason practices have continued back on campus, preparation for Dayton had not begun early this week. Estepp was still focused on his own team. He knows the Flyers are young, talented and athletic with length up and down the roster.

“That’ll be good for us to go up against for sure,” he said. “I know Anthony does a tremendous job, I have a ton of respect for his staff. Those guys been really good to us. I’m sure they’ll have them ready. There’s a lot of unknowns for them, too, and talking with them, they just want to get out there and see what they’ve got.”

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