- By David Jablonski Staff Writer
The sounds of bouncing basketballs almost drowned out Dayton Flyers coach Anthony Grant as he talked to reporters Tuesday at the Cronin Center.
Dayton’s eleven scholarship players, plus Meadowdale graduate Jabali Leonard, who’s trying to make the team as a walk-on, warmed up for practice with a shootaround as Grant spoke. The Flyers are nearing the end of their summer workouts. Classes conclude this week.
» RELATED: Seven notes on Tuesday’s practice
For the second straight year, Dayton will enter the season with a large cast of newcomers. Of the nine players available this season, five didn’t play last season as the Flyers finished 14-17 in Grant’s first season.
On Tuesday, Grant was asked what’s going to be different about this team.
“That’s a great question,” Grant said. “I guess that’s why we’re all here today to try to figure that out. Hopefully, this will be a team that continues to progress, and that’s what I’ve seen from when we’ve started and finally got everybody together in the middle of June to where they are now. We’re better.”
Dayton’s second summer session started June 23. In the last six weeks, Grant and his assistant coaches have tried balancing recruiting during the summer evaluation periods with coaching the current players. The team can spend up to four hours per week on basketball-related activities.
» PHOTOS: Flyers in action at Cronin Center
“It’s a juggling act, for sure,” Grant said. “We worked out Mondays and Tuesdays on the court once the recruiting started, and then myself and our staff hit the road Wednesday through Sunday. This is the fourth week we’ve had that type of schedule. During the summer, it’s great to be able to get them on the floor and to work with them and get them together as a team, but to me the biggest thing is their camaraderie, getting to know each other, getting familiar with each other, getting in the weight room, the conditioning, all that stuff. For the most part, it’s been a pretty productive summer for us.”
Dayton has four returning starters: redshirt senior forward Josh Cunningham; junior guard Trey Landers; sophomore point guard Jalen Crutcher; and sophomore guard Jordan Davis. Ryan Mikesell, a redshirt junior forward, returns to action after sitting out last season following two hip surgeries.
Dayton fans have not seen the other four players in action. Obi Toppin, a redshirt freshman, practiced throughout last season but didn’t play because he was an academic redshirt. Junior guard Jhery Matos, a junior college transfer, freshman guard Dwayne Cohill and freshman forward Frankie Policelli arrived on campus in June.
» RELATED: Dayton releases non-conference schedule
Junior guards Ibi Watson and Rodney Chatman, who transferred from Michigan and Chattanooga, respectively, will sit out this season and then play two seasons with the Flyers.
Grant has been impressed with the way the returning players and newcomers have bonded this summer. All of them were healthy and practicing Tuesday.
“Our new guys have come in and really acclimated themselves well to the veterans,” Grant said. “You see these guys together all the time. Whether it’s in the gym working out or going to dinner, or just hanging out with each other, they really get along well. It’s a great group to work with. In between the lines, those guys have really pushed each other and challenged each other to work hard and build a culture we’re trying to create in terms of how we go about what we do.”