Coming off the most successful regular season in program history, the Dayton Flyers are looking to recreate some of last year’s magic. I think everyone who pays attention to college basketball in the slightest is well aware of what Dayton accomplished last season, but in case you’ve literally been living under a rock since November of 2019, here’s a recap. The Flyers were runner-ups at the Maui Invitational, went 18-0 in Atlantic 10 play, and finished the year ranked No. 3 in the entire country at 29-2 overall. Unfortunately, Dayton (who would’ve been a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament) never had the opportunity to play a postseason game due to the now world famous and world hated coronavirus… something that will haunt Flyer fans for the rest of eternity. Nevertheless, Anthony Grant and the squad are back to work and ready to start another season. Despite losing superstar forward Obi Toppin to the NBA Draft, along with senior leaders Trey Landers and Ryan Mikesell, Dayton fully expects to continue its winning ways. So without further ado, here is your full player-by-player breakdown of the Flyers’ 2020-21 roster.
Jalen Crutcher (6’1″ – Guard)
Starting at point guard since his freshman year at Dayton, Jalen Crutcher took a massive step forward in his development last season. Averaging 15.1 points and 4.9 assists per game is impressive enough, but what really stood out to me was Crutcher’s shooting ability and clutch gene. Last season, Crutcher shot an astounding 42.4% from three and 87% from the free throw line. As you might imagine, this translated to some massive buckets towards the end of games. Crutcher drained deep buzzer beating threes against Kansas (to force overtime) and on the road at Saint Louis to give the Flyers the win, keeping their undefeated A-10 season alive and rightfully earning himself the nickname “Clutcher”.
Now entering his senior season, expectations for Jalen Crutcher are higher than ever. Crutcher was recently placed on the Bob Cousy award watch list, which goes to the best point guard in the country at the end of every season. After making the All-Conference First Team last year, Crutcher is looking to become the Atlantic 10 Player of the Year in 2020-21. Personally, I believe Jalen Crutcher will emerge as a top five point guard in all of America this year… he’s just that good folks.
Ibi Watson (6’5″ – Guard)
After coming to Dayton as a highly touted transfer from Michigan, Ibi Watson made key contributions to the Flyers last season. As a redshirt junior Watson played in all 31 games, averaging 10.1 points and shooting 39.3% from behind the arc. Watson primarily served as Dayton’s sixth man last season, only playing an average of 22.5 minutes per game. This year, however, I expect Watson to reach newfound levels of production. As the Flyers’ top compliment to Jalen Crutcher, Watson will likely start in every game this season as long as he is healthy. I believe he will play over 30 minutes per game, be Dayton’s primary option on offense (aside from Crutcher), and take on tough defensive assignments. Watch for Ibi Watson to finally show off the full arsenal of his game and compete for a first or second team All-Conference spot this season.
Rodney Chatman (6’1″ – Guard)
A transfer from Chattanooga, Rodney Chatman has been a calm and collected leader since arriving to Dayton. Despite airing on the quiet/reserved side, Chatman proved to be a menace on the defensive side of the ball last season. As a redshirt junior playing his first season with the Flyers, Chatman recorded a total of 40 steals and shut down many of the opposing guards he matched up against. Although the starting guard only averaged 7.6 points per game, he took care of the basketball and was an all-around reliable player. This season, I expect Chatman to continue starting at the two for Dayton, with the ability to take over for Jalen Crutcher at point guard when needed. I also expect Chatman to become a little more involved in the offense. If Chatman gains confidence in his scoring ability early in the season it will pay dividends for the Flyers as the year progresses.
Jordy Tshimanga (6’11” – Center)
Another transfer brought in by Anthony Grant, Jordy Tshimanga played his first two seasons at Nebraska before coming to Dayton. In his first year as a Flyer, Tshimanga primarily backed up Obi Toppin, which resulted in him only playing 9.8 minutes per game. With limited playing time, the 6’11” center averaged three points and 2.4 rebounds per contest. Nevertheless, Tshimanga displayed remarkable touch with his hook shots around the basket, shooting field goals at an impressive 67% clip.
Now expected to be Dayton’s starting center in his senior year, I anticipate we’ll see the best version of Tshimanga to date. Combine his imposing physical presence with touch around the basket and its easy to see how Tshimanga could cause problems for opposing teams. Additionally, Tshimanga has put in a lot of work over the last couple years to lose weight and improve his conditioning, which should help him stay on the court for longer periods of time this year. That said, I still have concerns regarding his ability to stay out of foul trouble and knock down free throws. Should Tshimanga improve in those two areas, he could be Dayton’s most productive big man this season.
Chase Johnson (6’9″ – Forward)
Just a few months after stepping away from the team halfway through the season, Chase Johnson is back and ready to contribute to the Flyers. As many who follow Dayton know, Johnson spent much of last season at home for personal reasons, but ultimately decided to return to the team and continue his career as a student-athlete. Johnson was a highly touted four-star recruit coming out of high school. He committed to and began his college journey at Florida before suffering multiple concussions. Seeking a change of scenery and fresh start, Johnson transferred to Dayton where he averaged 5.1 points and 2.8 rebounds in just 11.1 minutes per game (in eight games) prior to stepping away from the team.
As a redshirt junior this season, Johnson will add some versatility to the Flyers’ lineup. With two true centers in Jordy Tshimanga and Moulaye Sissoko, Johnson will be the only stretch-five on Dayton’s roster. Anthony Grant had great success going to a smaller lineup with Obi Toppin at center last year, so I am interested to see if he will run similar style offense with Johnson this year. While there are still many unknowns surrounding Johnson’s game, we do know he has good athleticism, coordination, and the ability to step out and shoot. It will be intriguing to see how the Flyers elect to utilize Johnson this season, but I expect him to play a key role and a minimum of 15 minutes per game.
None. Dayton does not have a sophomore on the roster this season.
Zimi Nwokeji (6’7″ – Forward)
A redshirt freshman from Quincy, Florida, Zimi Nwokeji brings a lot of talent and athleticism to Dayton. Nwokeji was a highly rated three-star recruiting coming out of high school. He originally committed to Florida State before decommitting and deciding to attend prep school SPIRE Academy. While at SPIRE, Nwokeji committed to Dayton and ended up joining the team in January of 2020. Now, with an extra few months of practice under his belt, Nwokeji is ready to take the court for the Flyers. While I think the seniors will garner the vast majority of minutes for Dayton this year, I do expect Nwokeji to contribute off the bench. Watch for him to serve as the primary backup to Ibi Watson and Chase Johnson with the ability to play anywhere from shooting guard to power forward.
Moulaye Sissoko (6’9″ – Center)
Standing 6’9″ and weighing in at 250 pounds, I think it’s safe to say Moulaye Sissoko carries more muscle mass than any player I’ve ever seen at Dayton. Originally from Bako, Mali, Sissoko moved to the United States at the age of 16 and played for Lincoln Academy in Georgia prior to committing to the Flyers. Although Sissoko was on the Dayton roster last season, Anthony Grant decided to redshirt and develop him since the Flyers already had great depth at forward/center. So while Sissoko did not play in a regular season game, he did put up 12 points and nine rebounds in an exhibition win over Cedarville in 2019. This year, I expect Sissoko to play valuable minutes for the Flyers while backing up Jordy Tshimanga. He will make an immediate impact on the glass and likely on defense, although his offensive game does remain in question.
R.J. Blakney (6’6″ – Guard/Forward)
A three-star prospect from Hagerstown, Maryland, R.J. Blakney is ready to hit the ground running at Dayton. After spending a year at a prep school (Loomis Chaffee) to further develop his game and add some muscle, Blakney begins college with a little more basketball experience than your typical true freshman. At Loomis Chaffee, Blakney averaged 20.3 points and 6.4 rebounds while leading his team to the league championship. From what I’ve seen from Blakeny so far, dare I say he reminds me a little of Flyer legend Dyshawn Pierre. At 6’6″ Blakney is perfectly comfortable handling the ball and shooting from beyond the arc, but his size allows him to grab rebounds and fill the lane quite well. Much like Pierre, Ryan Mikesell, Trey Landers, and others, I would not be surprised to see Blakney become the next great “do a little bit of everything” type player at Dayton. That said, the development process will be key as he is likely to see limited minutes this year.
Luke Frazier (6’5″ – Guard)
The first player to commit to Dayton’s 2020 recruiting class, Luke Frazier has known he wanted to be a Flyer for quite some time. As a senior at Lake Catholic high school, Frazier averaged a prolific 22.2 points, 6.7 rebounds, 3.9 assists, 2.2 blocks, and 2.1 steals per game. Capable of playing point guard, shooting the deep ball, and finishing around the hoop, Frazier certainly brings a talented skillset to Dayton. Needless to say I am excited to see Frazier take the floor, but I think it is important to tamper expectations for 2020-21. As with almost all freshmen, it will take a little time for Frazier to adjust to the speed and strength at which high level college basketball is played at. Nevertheless, I believe Frazier will be a strong contributor for the Flyers for years to come.
Koby Brea (6’6″ – Guard)
The youngest player on Dayton’s roster, Koby Brea just celebrated his 18th birthday on November 6th. Regardless of age, however, Brea begins his college career surrounded by hype. Brea has already established a strong following back home in New York and the Dominican Republic where both of his parents are originally from. During the summer of 2019, Brea played for the Dominican U17 National Team where he shot 41% from three. Last season, as a senior at Monsignor Scanlon high school, Brea averaged 20.8 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 5.2 assists per game. Capable of handling the ball and connecting from behind the arc, Brea, at 6’6″, poses a massive threat to opposing teams. Although I do not expect him to play much this year due to his youth, watch out for Brea to become a force in the A-10 by the time he’s an upperclassman.
Dwayne Cohill (6’2″ – Guard)
Poised for a breakout year entering his junior season, Dwayne Cohill was ready to make major contributions to the Flyers in 2020-21. Unfortunately, just a few weeks ago, Cohill suffered a season-ending injury when he tore his ACL. Considered by some to be the best defender on Dayton’s roster, the Flyers will certainly be impacted by the loss of Cohill. As the all-time scoring leader at Holy Name high school, Cohill appeared ready to take the next step in his offensive game at Dayton. While Cohill is expected to receive a medical redshirt, it’s certainly less than ideal that he must miss this season.
Elijah Weaver (6’6″ – Guard)
After transferring to Dayton from USC over the summer, Elijah Weaver seems to be fitting in very well with the Flyers. A former four-star recruit and standout player for the Trojans in his first two years at USC, it’s easy to understand why Dayton fans are so excited to see Weaver on the court. Per NCAA transfer rules, however, Weaver must sit out this season before being eligible to play next year as a redshirt junior. That is, unless he receives a waiver making him eligible to play immediately. Although Dayton has not applied for a waiver for Weaver, Anthony Grant recently said that they are still considering the possibility. Whenever Weaver does take the court for the Flyers, I fully expect him to make a splash from the start.
Mustapha Amzil (6’10” – Forward)
The latest player to commit to Dayton, Mustapha Amzil is a skilled, versatile forward from Finland. A three-star recruit with offers from numerous Power Five schools, Amzil certainly has a chance to turn himself into an outstanding player under Anthony Grant. Although he will not be ready for the start of the season, Amzil is expected to join the team in time for Dayton’s 2nd semester. Due to one-time NCAA rules put in place due to Covid-19, Amzil will be able to play for the Flyers without losing any eligibility this year. That said, I doubt we see him take the floor much, as he will be a freshman and brand new addition to the team in January.
Starting Lineup Predictions
There’s no doubt Jalen Crutcher, Rodney Chatman, and Ibi Watson will start for Dayton this season. The question is, as I mentioned earlier, how Anthony Grant chooses to utilize his big men. Will he go small with Chase Johnson at center and Zimi Nwokeji at power forward? Or will he go big with Jordy Tshimanga and Chase Johnson? While I believe we’ll see a variety of lineups over the course of the season, I think Anthony Grant opts to ride with his veterans to begin the year. Therefore, my starting lineup prediction for Dayton’s opening game looks as follows: Jalen Crutcher – point guard, Rodney Chatman – shooting guard, Ibi Watson – small forward, Chase Johnson – power forward, Jordy Tshimanga – center. As the season progresses, I believe Grant will begin to incorporate the freshmen more and more. Watch for Zimi Nwokeji, R.J. Blakney, and Moulaye Sissoko to make key contributions off the bench.
Well, there you have it folks… the full breakdown of every scholarship player on Dayton’s 2020-21 roster and a starting lineup prediction. While the schedule is still rounding into form as Covid-19 madness persists, we can rest assured knowing that college basketball will be played, at least in some form, this year. It should be another great year of A-10 hoops with several teams having very good chances to make the NCAA tournament. Although the Flyers won’t be a No. 1 seed like they would have been last year, I do think they find a way to return to the big dance. Jalen Crutcher and Ibi Watson promise to pack a powerful one-two combo and I am confident some of Dayton’s role players will step up as needed (exactly who remains to be seen).
Featured Image via daytonflyers.com