For most, if not all the Dayton players, this will be their first trip to Europe. They expect it to be an important team bonding experience on and off the court.
“I think it will be really good for us to jell together and play some high-level competition,” senior point guard Scoochie Smith said. “It’ll be really good for us and show us the reality of where we’re at as a team. When we come back in September, we’ll be ready.”
All the Flyers will play, except for senior forward Kendall Pollard. In May, Miller said Pollard wouldn’t play in Spain, and that remains the plan. He’s 60 percent healthy after offseason wrist and knee surgeries, Miller said. The goal is to get him to 100 percent when preseason practices begin in October.
Only one new player will be on the trip, freshman guard Trey Landers, of Wayne High School. Dayton’s other freshman, forward Kostas Antetokounmpo, will not join the team until he enrolls at school for the fall semester.
For Miller, the two games aren’t as important as the practices the team will get in Spain and the practices they had in July and August leading up to this trip. They held their last practice before the trip Thursday.
“We’ve really used it as a mini-camp,” Miller said. “We’ve tried to tweak a couple things. We spent a lot of time on some new spacing. It’s been good to get a tryout of what it looks like for a couple of guys playing in new areas of the floor and in new roles.”
As an example, Miller said he could see point guard John Crosby on the court with two other guards. He doesn’t see Dayton’s basic principles changing, but the death of center Steve McElvene in May forced the coaches to change their plans. Miller said the Flyers will continue to evolve even when the season begins and expects players to have more freedom in the system.
“The tempo has got to be up,” Miller said. “The sharing of the ball on offense has got to be better.”
The trip won’t only be about basketball. Dayton will have a service opportunity with the Red Cross. It will take a side trip to Segovia, a historic city near Madrid, and visit the Sagrada Familia, the famous church in Barcelona.
“The biggest thing is this trip is going to give us an opportunity to be together for a long period of time,” Miller said. “It’s not an academic setting. It’s going to be two of the greatest cities in the world. We get to work out over there, but more importantly we get to relax and have fun.”