Dayton players (left to right: Sam Miller, Xeyrius Williams, John Crosby, Ryan Mikesell and Bobby Wehrli) cheer after a made free throw against Richmond on Tuesday, March 1, 2016, at the Robins Center in Richmond, Va. David Jablonski/Staff

Archie Miller: Improvement of young players key for Dayton Flyers

On the one side, they’ll have four seniors — if Charles Cooke withdraws his name from consideration for the NBA draft — who will make them one of most experienced teams in the Atlantic 10. Three of those players — Scoochie Smith, Kendall Pollard and Kyle Davis — will begin the season 19 victories short of tying UD’s all-time record for wins by a class (97).

On other hand, UD will have six sophomores. There are the four true sophomores: Sam Miller, John Crosby, Xeyrius Williams and Ryan Mikesell. There are two third-year sophomores. Steve McElvene sat out his freshman season as a NCAA partial qualifier. Josh Cunningham played his freshman season at Bradley and sat out last season at UD after transferring.

In the middle, there’s junior Darrell Davis. The one newcomer, unless UD adds a transfer to the roster this spring or summer, will be freshman Trey Landers from Wayne High School.

Coach Archie Miller sees the improvement of the younger players as as the key to the team next season.

 “I don’t want our drop off in depth to feel different,” Miller said. “I don’t want guys coming in and out of the game to change the level of play.”

Miller talked about each of those players in an interview at his office at UD on Friday.

Q: You said no players will transfer for the second straight year. How were you able to keep everyone with so many players transferring these days?

A: It’s good to go to school here. It’s a credit to the university, No. 1, because our guys have a great quality of life here within the community and campus. The academic side is something that’s important. They enjoy themselves. When you add in the basketball and passion, it’s a great place to be. Our guys are sacrificing a lot as individuals and a lot as a team. … Going into next season on paper we have as many guys to put in the game as we’ve ever had. It’s very easy in this day and age to quit on the process.

Q: Darrell Davis went from 45 percent shooting from 3-point range to 29 percent. Can you get him back on track?

A: I think so. Guys have years like that. I told Darrell I had a year like that in college. You just can’t ever figure it out and get it going, and once you do get it going and hope it stays, it doesn’t. I think all of Darrell’s improvement is going to come from Darrell. As an upperclassmen, I really think he’s going to have a breakout season. Shooting will be the least of his problems. He’s got to get stronger. He’s got to get bigger. We’ve talked about that. We need more from him as a scoring punch. At times, he didn’t give us the scoring punch, but he was a much better player in other areas.

Q: McElvene got off to a great start, but you could tell the issues with foul trouble got in his head. How can he improve as a sophomore?

A: He’s got to mature and grow up from year one. If you look at any freshman, it doesn’t matter who it would be, they all have those type of seasons where they zoom up and down. Hopefully, with the reps he gained in his first year, it’s easier for him to realize what’s happening. Steve’s biggest deal is going to be strength and conditioning. He went from a guy that was heavy and had to lose a lot of weight to a guy that had to get in college shape. Now he’s got to get college strong. He’s almost got to build his body twice. With strength and conditioning, he’s going to be better around the basket.

Q: Your freshmen all had their moments, good and bad. How much better will Mikesell, Williams, Crosby and Miller be this season?

A: They all need more opportunity to play, and they all are going to make a major jump. No. 1 is their physical development. The second thing is the skill level. All of them have major contributions ahead of them. They have major league improvements to make. How good they can potentially be is how good we can be next year. I see some guys really doing some good things.

Q: Who had the best freshman season?

A: They all had moments. I think they all were about the same in their impact. In watching this offseason and moving into next season, I think there are some guys who have a chance to change their game.

Sam Miller has a chance to change his game this summer. He’s not a young kid anymore. He’s very skilled shooting the ball. We want him to be as lethal a weapon shooting the ball as he can be. Part of that is how many different (player) combinations can he play with. Part of that means his body. He’s got to go from a kid who’s not very strong to a kid who’s in tremendous shape his second year in college.

Xeyrius is the same way. He’s got to go from 207-210 pounds to 220-225 pounds. Then you get to see a different Xeyrius. John has to improve his shooting and be quicker and stronger. Ryan has to be quicker and stronger and more lateral.

I like all four guys. They didn’t go to a place that was going to win six to eight games. They signed up to go to a place that was competing for (conference titles). There’s competition and good players. Now that your first year’s over, there’s no excuse. You have to understand you can go get what you want.

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