In his last months on the job as strength coach with the Dayton Flyers men’s basketball team, Casey Cathrall helped the players turn the corner after a 14-17 season.
The Flyers didn’t take much time off before returning to the weight room with Cathrall. He didn’t have to prod them to get back to work. He said they never want to experience the lows of last season again, and a losing season was a new experience for most of the players.
“I think guys are hungry,” Cathrall said. “No one likes losing — especially at a place like (Dayton).”
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Cathrall started a new job Monday in Florida as the strength coach for the Miami Hurricanes men’s basketball program. He left Dayton after one year for a university where he earned his master’s degree in exercise physiology in 2014. He also served as a graduate assistant in the strength program when the Hurricanes won the Atlantic Coast Conference regular season and tournament championships in 2013.
Cathrall’s wife, Grace, is from Vero Beach, Fla., 140 miles north of Miami, and her family still lives there. This was an opportunity they couldn’t turn down, though Cathrall raved about his experience in Dayton.
“Dayton was awesome,” Cathrall said. “Obviously, the year didn’t go the way we would have hoped, but that really had no impact (on his decision). Grace had so many close friends (in Dayton). I really enjoyed working with the staff there. Coach (Anthony) Grant is a phenomenal guy. Everyone there was straight first class. Nothing but good things to say. It’s just bittersweet. I really feel we made some strides there in terms of trying to establish a culture and where the kids we’re at. I’m really excited for that program and where it’s headed.”
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During his season year in Dayton, Cathrall helped prepare two players who missed last season, Ryan Mikesell and Obadiah Toppin, for their return to the court in the 2018-19 season. Mikesell underwent two surgeries last year to repair hip impingements. Toppin sat out the season as an academic redshirt.
“Ryan and Obi were lifting five days a week with me,” Cathrall said. “Those two guys, whether it was skill work with the coaches or weights with me, their plates were full. Even if we had a game that day, we were getting up early and coming over to the weight room and getting some work in, getting some skill work, and maybe we’ve got a shootaround, and they were getting some work in after.”
Cathrall credited both players for remaining focused through the monotony of a season away from the action.
“Those guys are beasts,” Cathrall said.
Even though he has left the program, Cathrall can’t wait to see what Mikesell does. A 6-foot-7 redshirt junior from St. Henry, Mikesell averaged 5.7 points and 3.9 rebounds in his last season on the court in 2016-17. He started 23 games that season, playing through hip pain.
“Ryan just had something he loved and was so passionate about taken away from him for a year,” Cathrall said, “so I think that year sitting out, kind of having to start all over in terms of his athletic development, but also having to watch a year and gain perspective, his mind’s in an unbelievable place in terms of not taking any day for granted and going 100 percent in everything he does, whether that’s weights, basketball, nutrition. He’s just an unbelievable kid to work with.”
Dayton posted Cathrall’s job last week and is also looking to hire a new assistant coach for the men’s basketball team after James Kane left for Iowa State.
In his final weeks on the job, Cathrall got to work with two of the newest Flyers: Michigan transfer Ibi Watson and Chattanooga transfer Rodney Chatman.
“Ibi got there the first week of summer school, somewhere around May 12 or 13th,” Cathrall said. “Rod was the week after or two weeks after. I spent a couple weeks with Ibi and at least two weeks with Rod. The takeaway from those two guys if the fans at Dayton are interested is they’re unbelievable people.”
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Of Watson, Cathrall said, “Ibi, from day one, wants to win. He wants to be the best. Incredible competitiveness in him. He wants to do the extra miles, showing up early, staying after. Just very, very mature. What he brings to the program is more of what we need and more of where it’s going in terms of the culture and in terms of an unbelievable amount of discipline and habits and what it takes to be successful. He’s got a personality that he was able to mesh with the guys right away. I think the chemistry will show when he’s finally able to get out there on the floor.
Speaking of Chatman, Cathrall said, “Rod’s a softer-spoken guy. You can tell he’s a guy that’s played college basketball before. I think he’s adjusting to the physicality we have at Dayton, but in terms of his skill set, his basketball IQ, his unselfishness and his demeanor and habits, I just think he’s another home-run addition of what coach Grant and the staff are building.”