Ibi Watson took passes from coach Anthony Solomon and shot 3-pointers. Chase Johnson worked on post moves with new graduate assistant coach Khyle Marshall. Obi Toppin, Jalen Crutcher and Trey Landers dribbled through cones with the Baden Skilcoach Heavy Trainer Rubber Basketball, bright yellow balls that help players increase strength and improve ballhandling skills.
The first official practice was still eight days away, but this workout was another brick in the foundation Dayton has been building since the season ended with a 78-73 loss to Colorado in the first round of the NIT on March 19.
“It’s good to have a chance to get everybody together early in the year,” Dayton coach Anthony Grant said. “We’re still in September, so we’re trying to put it together. The guys have done a good job. Now it’s just a process of getting ready. Practices start Oct. 1, so we’ll get a chance to figure out what we have.”
Workouts never really stop in college basketball these days. They slow down in the spring immediately after the season, ramp up during the summer and continue in August and September to a limited extent. However, the official start of practice is always something special. Once Dayton practices for the first time, it can practice as many as 30 times before its season opener Nov. 9. There’s an extra excitement this season because of the potential of this season.
Grant, redshirt senior forward Ryan Mikesell and Crutcher, a junior point guard, talked to local reporters on Monday in the first media session of the new season. It was another sign that basketball is right around the corner.
Here are a few highlights from the interviews and the glimpses of the opening minutes of Dayton’s workout:
1. Head count: Nine of Dayton's 11 scholarship players were participating in the early part of the workout. Center Jordy Tshimanga was on the sideline along with Watson, who was shooting around before the workout. Watson had a boot on his foot earlier this month but wasn't wearing it Monday. Grant said he suffered he suffered a leg injury and was in the process of getting back on the court.
Asked about the team’s health, Grant said, “That’s been up and down. We’ve had guys out here and there, but nothing serious — knock on wood. I think by the time we start the season we should have everyone ready to go.”
2. One newcomer: Freshman center Moulaye Sissoko is the only player who wasn't on Dayton's roster last season, though four transfers sat out the season on bench.
Asked about Sissoko’s progress since arriving on campus in June, Grant said, “He’s doing well. He’s got a lot to learn being the only freshman — learning terminology, learning our system, both offensively and defensively. He brings a lot. We’re excited about him.”
3. Building chemistry: Dayton returns three players who finished the season as starters: Toppin, Crutcher and Mikesell. It returns one player with significant starting experience: Landers, a senior guard.It also returns sophomore Dwayne Cohill, one of five players to appear in all 33 games last season, and redshirt junior guard Jhery Matos, who played in only the first six games last season before suffering a season-ending foot injury.
Watson, Johnson, Tshimanga, Sissoko and guard Rodney Chatman will make their Dayton debuts this season.
“Everybody talks about these transfers we’re adding,” Mikesell said, “but they’ve been on campus for a whole year now. We’re building chemistry. It’s been real easy this summer. A lot of familiar faces. We’re excited for the games to start and for the fans to see what we’ve been working on.”