Just as things were starting to look up after tough back-to-back wins at #22 Saint Louis and home against a good Rhode Island squad, Dayton took another bad loss last night at the hands of the Duquesne Dukes. Don’t get it twisted either; Duquesne was opening their new building and was also trending up and improving as a team overall. The Dukes have been better as of late and should be expected to finish somewhere in the 7-9 range of the final A-10 standings. Nonetheless, the loss was a lot worse than the final score indicated for Dayton. The box score should tell you that.
It’s no secret that Dayton’s at-large chances ended weeks ago at the hands of the Fordham Rams. Losing at home against La Salle earlier probably wasn’t the final nail in the coffin seeing now that Richmond suffered the same loss and are still in the conversation for an at-large on many brackets, including friend of the site, Joe Lunardi. If fans had any microscopic glimmers of hope about Dayton’s at-large chances (there was one on bracket matrix this week), those are gone now after last night’s loss to Duquesne.
We can come up with so many different reasons why Dayton has lost or what they need to do to win. Whether it’s turnover battles, three point shooting, contributions from Jalen Crutcher or Ibi Watson, the team just seems to pick and choose which games they are going to win. There’s reasons why teams win and lose, and this Dayton team has a bunch of combinations in which either can happen. To put it simply, the season is a waste of a lot of talent, and it’s very disappointing. The only way they can make up for it is by winning the A-10 Tournament in March.
If you are still watching this team, you are going to want to see them win obviously, but you might want to know what else is there if there’s no chance to get an at-large birth or win the A-10 regular season title?
Well, if this season is a wash, it’s time to start thinking about the future of this team. Even though seniors this year will be granted an extra year if they so choose, it is highly doubtful that many seniors will take advantage of that. The Dayton seniors are no different. Jalen Crutcher has a chance to get drafted in the NBA or at least make a roster as a non-draft invitee. Ibi Watson, Rodney Chatman, and Jordy Tshimanga have a good chance to make a nice living playing basketball overseas. It is likely that their Dayton careers will end this year.
Nonetheless, the guys that are coming back to school are the most important now than ever. Here’s the list of players that are currently going to be coming back and coming to Dayton next season:
Dwayne Cohill (6-2 G) – junior
Elijah Weaver (6-6 G) – junior
Moulaye Sissoko (6-9 C) – sophomore
RJ Blakney (6-6 G/F) – sophomore
Zimi Nwokeji (6-7 F) – sophomore
Luke Frazier (6-5 G) – sophomore
Mustapha Amzil (6-10 F) – sophomore
Koby Brea (6-6 G) – sophomore
Malachi Smith (6-0 G) – freshman
DaRon Holmes (6-8 F) – freshman
Kaleb Washington (6-7 F) – freshman
There’s some good and bad about this roster, so let’s lay it all out.
We don’t really know who the playmakers are on this roster. Coming into this season, we knew the main offensive weapons were Crutcher, Watson, Johnson, and Chatman. Well, all are either gone already or will be at the end of the year. From this roster, I can see it being like the 2013-2014 roster where you really didn’t know who the leading scorer was going to be on any given night, which could be a good thing. However, just by looking at this year, only Amzil and Weaver are showing they can consistently contribute every game. Blakney has shown promise, but his injury set him back a bit. Nwokeji is coming on as of late, chipping in 7-8 points a game with a few rebounds, but thats about it. Even less is coming from Brea, and Frazier has seen the floor once in garbage time of a blowout against VCU. Sissoko looks like he could be heading to the transfer portal. Right now, this entire roster consists of role players that are medium to small contributors. As Coach Carter said, “Looks like we will have new leading scorers this season”. Love that movie.
The other bad part is that many of these guys fell behind in their development and acclimation to the team due to COVID. These guys missed many practices in the offseason “in an abundance of caution” (it’s not a real article unless you get that in there). They are basically making up for it now by being in the games. The only players getting an abundance of playing time are Amzil, Weaver, and Nwokeji. It appears Blakney will start getting more minutes soon after seeing him play 25 minutes in the Duquesne game. Getting experience for these young guys is as important as ever right now.
Finally, this team is young and inexperienced with no seniors and only two juniors. With this kind of inexperience comes some growing pains and patience. (which I know is not our strongest quality as fans). Normally teams that have this kind of promise that lack experience means that it will be a rebuilding year of sorts next year. I know Flyer fans are tired of it because we had one of those already in Grant’s first few years, our dream got cancelled in his third year, and this year was disappointed and screwed up a bit with all this COVID madness. It’s just the way the cookie crumbled. But, you never know and that’s why they play the games.
This roster is long and athletic. The average height of this roster as it currently stands is 6-6. They have only two players that are shorter than 6-5. Other than Sissoko, who I believe is most likely going to transfer for this particular reason (among others that I won’t get into), the roster is almost completely filled with combo guard/athletes that can spread the floor. Obi Toppin is the epitome of the type of player Anthony Grant wants on his teams, and now he has those type of long, athletic players that can spread the floor up and down the roster. We have all agreed that the offense Grant likes to run has to consist of players that can move in and out of the half-court, make shots from outside, and cut to the basket, basically what you saw the Flyers do in 2020. Outside of Sissoko, this roster has every single player that can do that no matter who they mix and match with on the floor, which leads me to my next point…
The team is deep, and I mean that in the sense that because we don’t know who the playmaker is, it allows Grant to plug and play multiple guys to see what works. Grant doesn’t have to change the offense around to cater to Tshimanga’s or Sissoko’s abilities. You can plug in Blakney for Nwokeji or Holmes for Amzil and it can work the same, fast paced offense that we knew to love in 2020. Getting the offense to that high of a level will be a different story, but still, the thought is still there that Dayton can get back to the offense Grant likes 100% of the time.
This team having no seniors hurts, but depending how they perform as a young, promising group of athletes, I can see the 2023 season being one that has a very good core to work with having a majority of the team being upperclassmen. Like VCU is this year, being young doesn’t mean you don’t have to be good.
Lastly, this recruiting class is the best Dayton has had in the history of the program. It starts with DaRon Holmes, who is the highest recruit to come to Dayton. He is currently a 4 star player and #44 on ESPN top 100 for the class of 2021, not to mention the Arizona Gatorade Player of the Year. To compare, other 4 starts that played for the Flyers the Flyers include Chris Wright, Juwan Staten, and current Flyers Dwayne Cohill and Mustapha Amzil. If you haven’t seen his current highlights of recent games, look him up. He’s legit and has a chance to start game one.
Another big time recruit is Kaleb Washington. He is rated as a 3-star recruit and #129 nationally on 247 sports. Some recruiting sites and analysts have him as a 4-star recruit. Again another lengthly, athletic forward. Finally is Malachi Smith, who is brother to Flyer legend Scoochie Smith. Mali is a three-star recruit and #151 nationally on 247 sports. If you loved Scoochie Smith while he was at Dayton, you’ll love his brother now, too.
Dayton will also have two scholarships open, and a third if anyone transfers in the offseason. That should open the floor to another commitment or even a transfer or two.
Yes I know this was long, but the goal from now until the A10 tournament is to get our young guys out on the floor and developing them as much as possible. And no, they shouldn’t just play over the seniors to do so. But, if there are good opportunities in blowouts, on either side, then let’s hope they get in the game. Let’s also hope they also get some meaningful minutes and get better every game. We’ve seen it so far with Amzil, Blakney, and Nwokeji, so let’s start seeing it from the other guys as well. Even though this season is surely a disappointment and a lost cause, we can focus on the future that we have and will have on this team. The future is bright in Dayton.