Trey Landers doesn’t need any help dunking. He got an assist on a dunk Wednesday from Obi Toppin only because he saw a camera nearby and sensed an opportunity.
Showing off for a photographer before practice, Landers asked Toppin to lift him off the ground toward the rim. Thus, the Obi-Oop was born. It’s probably illegal. It may never see the lights of UD Arena. But it sure does have a catchy name.
The Wayne High School grad Landers, entering his junior season, and the redshirt freshman Toppin can dunk with the best of them, though the latter has yet to do so in a college game. They are two reasons fans have started counting down the days until the exhibition game against Capital on Friday, Nov. 2 and the 2018-19 season opener against North Florida on Wednesday, Nov. 7.
While expectations outside Dayton for the Flyers have diminished because of last year’s 14-17 record and the offseason exodus of five players, there’s always hope around a new season. Anthony Grant, for one, can’t wait to get his second season as Dayton’s head coach underway.
“I’m excited,” Grant said. “I think we’ve got a good group of guys. They’ve really bonded well. It’s a group that enjoys each other. They’ve got a good work ethic. We’re looking forward to getting started and putting it together.”
Grant spoke to local reporters on Tuesday about the season ahead. Here are four highlights from his interview:
1. Learning lessons: Dayton’s streak of 11 straight winning seasons ended last season, as did its streak of four straight NCAA tournament appearances and two straight Atlantic 10 regular-season championships.
Asked if his team will play with a chip on its shoulder as it seeks to put last season’s failures in the past, Grant said, “We try to learn from every experience we go through: the good ones and the bad ones.”
2. Defensive focus: Grant and the players talked in July about the importance of becoming a better defensive team. That has continued to be a focus since school started in August.
“I think the emphasis I’ve tried to put on our guys is from a defensive standpoint to up our game,” Grant said. “We’ve got to be a lot better defensively than we were last year. That’s been an emphasis, especially in the fall.”
3. Practice schedule: Dayton has practiced twice a week throughout September. It also had devoted one practice per week to individual skill development, while spending three days a week in the weight room.
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Grant said the first official practice will be Thursday, Oct. 4. At that point, Dayton can practice up to 30 times before the opener.
“We’ve built up to the point where we should be ready to go,” Grant said. “We should be ready for practice. The load will increase quite a bit once you go on consecutive days once you start next week. We’re going to build ourselves up. As always you want to make sure you stay healthy. You want to make sure you have guys available. That’s something we try to focus on as well.”
4. Different times: Grant likes having access to his players throughout the year. Changing NCAA rules over the years have allowed that. He also knows he can’t push his players too hard in the offseason.
“With the access you get in the summer and the fall, there could be a tendency to really want to hit it hard,” Grant said. “We don’t need them to be at their peak in September or early October.”