Injury news overshadowing start of season

Credit: David Jablonski

Credit: David Jablonski

Many fans of the Dayton Flyers consider themselves a somewhat cursed group. However, as the much anticipated 2022-23 season approached, even the most pessimistic fan had little to complain about. Not even preseason reports of injuries to Koby Brea, Kaleb Washington and Richard Amaefule — nothing long term, coach Anthony Grant said — could dampen their enthusiasm for the most-hyped season in recent memory.

That changed this week with the news of starting point guard Malachi Smith suffering another injury.

“This Malachi Smith news has me in shambles,” one fan wrote on Twitter.

“I can’t take any more pain,” wrote another.

Every program experiences injuries. Bad luck hits everyone, too. Dayton fans may have a point, however, in thinking they’re jinxed.

Let’s review the recent gut punches Dayton has taken:

Dayton is the first team left out of the 2022 NCAA tournament one day after blowing a lead to Richmond in the Atlantic 10 Conference tournament following an injury to Smith. Richmond plays in the Big Dance instead.

Dayton wins 29 games and rises to No. 3 in the national rankings after 20 straight victories only to have the entire postseason cancelled by the pandemic.

The best four-year run in school history ends with Archie Miller leaving the program in 2017 for a job at Indiana.

That’s just a brief synopsis and doesn’t include the numerous injuries or heartbreaking losses over the years. Still, the fans keep coming. They’ve now sold out two straight seasons and 44 games in a row at UD Arena.

Like the Hawk, of Saint Joseph’s, hope never dies. Maybe the Flyers can survive without Smith for however long he’s sidelined? Maybe Kobe Elvis can carry the point guard load? Maybe freshman Mike Sharavjamts is as good as everyone says?

Dayton fans will learn the answers to those questions in November. For now, they’re trying to patch the holes in their enthusiasm with red and blue Band-Aids.

To help them, here are three pieces of good news:

1. Dayton ranked in both polls

The Flyers landed at No. 24 in the Associated Press poll earlier this month. The USA Today Sports Men’s Basketball Coaches Poll was released Tuesday, and Dayton was No. 25.

The coaches swapped Dayton and Texas Tech at the bottom of the poll. Texas Tech was No. 25 in the AP poll and No. 24 in the coaches poll.

This is the third year I’ve voted in the AP poll and the first time I’ve voted for Dayton. I had the Flyers at No. 20. I was glad other voters had them higher because I don’t want to be seen as a homer. Seth Davis, of The Athletic and CBS Sports, ranked them the highest: No. 15. All the individual ballots are available on

2. A star to watch

I’ve been counting down the days until the Nov. 7 season opener with a series of stories touching on topics related to the Flyers and the college basketball season.

I wrote something this week on the possible expansion of the NCAA tournament. Anthony Grant would support a larger field, which is not a surprise because most coaches would see a lot of pressure lifted off their shoulders if their chances of making the tournament every season increased.

I went back 20-plus years to see how rare it is for Dayton to return all five starters, and I’ve compared the rosters of Grant’s first six Dayton teams. This week, I also compiled a review of everything myself and Dayton Daily News columnist Tom Archdeacon have written about DaRon Holmes over the last two years. We’ve chewed up hundreds of column inches.

There should be plenty more to come about Holmes, who’s poised for a great sophomore year.

Will this be his last season with Dayton? He got more 2023 NBA Draft buzz on Thursday when Sam Vecenie, of The Athletic, projected him to be the No. 22 pick.

“DaRon Holmes projects well as a breakout big this season, largely because he’s a 6-foot-10 athlete who has a relatively complete skill set,” Vecenie wrote. “He’s a terrific rim runner who finished in the top 10 nationally in dunks last season. He can really pass and make reads on the fly, and he can block shots at a high level, as seen by his two blocks per game as a freshman last season. He can also defend a bit in space and is the best shot blocker of jump shots that I’ve evaluated since Robert Williams III.”

Credit: David Jablonski

Credit: David Jablonski

3. National coverage

Dayton does not get much attention outside Dayton, at least compared to teams from Power 5 conferences. That will change as long as Dayton remains in the top 25. The Associated Press has always sent writers to cover games involving top-25 teams. That’s one way the poll means something.

National publications will also devote more coverage to the Flyers. The Athletic published a big-picture piece this month that quoted Grant and Dayton Athletics Director Neil Sullivan as well as Dayton forwards Toumani Camara and Holmes.

The main focus of the article by Brian Hamilton is on the possible expansion of the Big East down the line and whether Dayton might have a chance to make a move to the conference — a never-ending story for Dayton fans. There still is no answer. Dayton just has to do enough winning, Hamilton wrote, to get the Big East’s attention.

“It really is about consistency,” Sullivan told The Athletic. “We could all name schools that peak and fall. It’s been a challenge since COVID for a lot of us, but we were on the trajectory. And it’s about consistency in staying there, year in and year out and year in and year out, where you’re winning conference championships and you’re in the mix in the NCAA Tournament. I believe we were headed that way. And I think that’s what Anthony I are after, is a level of consistency, which is challenging in this environment with the period of instability that we’re in.”

Each week, I’ll spotlight news from around the A-10 or other news that might interest Flyer fans.

🏀 Saint Louis, the No. 2 pick in the A-10 behind Dayton, delivered a disappointing performance in its exhibition game Monday with one of its top players, Javonte Perkins, who missed last season with a knee injury, on the bench with an ankle sprain.

🏀 Dwayne Cohill, the last member of Dayton’s 29-2 team that saw action that season and remains in college basketball, was named to the All-Horizon League preseason first team. Cohill is a fifth-year senior in his second season at Youngstown State.

🏀 The New York Knicks picked up the fourth-year option on former Dayton star Obi Toppin on Wednesday. He’s due to make $6,803,012 next season. His rookie contract is worth $22,118,492 over four seasons. Toppin is averaging a career-best 9.3 points through four games in his third season, though he continues to struggle to find playing time. He’s averaging 15.3 minutes, the ninth most on the team.

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