• The Flyers have their highest national ranking in 64 years.
• They are 28-2 for the first time in school history.
• Their 19-game winning streak is the longest in the nation.
• And Saturday night – should they defeat George Washington, as they are heavily favored to do, in the regular season finale at UD Arena – they would finish 18-0 in Atlantic 10 play, matching two Temple teams (1983-84 and 1987-88) for the most wins in conference history.
“My coworkers, they’re all talking about the Flyers,” Tracy said. “They’ll be like, ‘We saw the game last night.’ Trey had this many points. Obi (Toppin) did that. Jalen (Crutcher) did this. They know all the players by their first names.
» PHOTOS: From Wayne to Dayton, Trey Landers through the years
“The team is lifting the city and the city is rallying around the team, too, and showing some love.
“It’s awesome what’s happening. The games are all sold out. Afterward, there’s 200 and 300 people waiting outside now for the team to come out. They’ve had to enhance security just to get the players through the crowd.”
And one of the most beloved Flyers is her son — the hometown hero – the one player born and raised in Dayton, Trotwood and Huber Heights, where he went to Wayne High School.
Last Saturday night – when the Flyers pushed aside Davidson at UD Arena – they were assured of the outright A-10 title.
Tracy grinned: “I said to Trey, ‘Oh, I’m so glad I’ll have another ring coming.’ And, he said, ‘Mom! You already have a ring. This one is gonna be mine.’”
Thursday afternoon – following his robust 14-points and 14-rebound effort in the Flyers 84-57 victory at Rhode Island the night before – Landers laughed when he heard his mom’s ring lament:
“We might get a couple more rings this year, so she might get to wear another one for a little bit.”
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There’s the chance of the A-10 Tournament title next weekend and should that happen, there’d almost surely be a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. But following coach Anthony Grant’s lead, the Flyers won’t give public embrace to any of that now.
Still, there’s no denying there’s a lot more to come for UD.
One thing, though, will end with Saturday’s game.
It’s Senior Night – the final game at UD Arena for Landers and Ryan Mikesell, the Flyers’ two seniors.
And it’s likely the final appearance here for the high-flying Toppin, a front-runner for the national player of the year this season and a likely top five pick in the upcoming NBA draft.
That means it will be the last time the UD Arena crowd will get to watch this wondrous Dayton team perform on Blackburn Court.
As Grant stressed Thursday: “For the seniors, there’ll be a lot of emotion….We want to send them out the right way.”
He was talking about beating George Washington.
Dayton senior Trey Landers and his mom, Tracy Mathews. CONTRIBUTED
Dayton senior Trey Landers and his mom, Tracy Mathews. CONTRIBUTED
But the sendoff will include more than that. There will be a mid-court ceremony where Landers and Mikesell will be accompanied by their families as the sold-out crowd loudly cheers them.
Landers said he’ll be joined by his two brothers – Robert, the celebrated Ohio State lineman, preparing for the NFL draft and younger brother, Tallice – Robert’s son, Dakota, a “brother” Guy Victoria and, most importantly, his mom.
Grant has called the 6-foot-5 Landers – who is second on the team in rebounds and steals, third in scoring and assists, first in vocal leadership and beneath the boards muscle and attitude – the “glue” of the team.
But Thursday Landers shook his head to that:
“The real glue person is my mom. She’s my glue. She’s our whole family’s glue.”
Leading by example
Fourteen years ago Landers’ dad — Robert Landers – was murdered on Salem Avenue.
After that Tracy had to become her sons’ sole breadwinner, their security blanket, their guiding force.
“When I lost him I was already school,” she said. “My dream had been to go to medical school and be a doctor. But after that, everything changed. I had to work full time. I had to take care of my boys.”
Trey said there were times she worked two and three jobs and for a while she was a travelling nurse going around the country.
In the process she managed to go back to school and get her bachelor’s degree. In three weeks she’ll finish her masters from Capella University. And she’s opening her own business, Dakota Healthcare Training — firstname.lastname@example.org — which will provide advanced nursing assistance training.
“In life you face obstacles and hit brick walls all the time,” she said. “It’s up to you to take alternate tracks to get around them. I try to lead my boys by example. But I also let them know I’m always there for them.”
She’s taken the same approach with the Flyers team. Some players regularly come home with Trey and Tracy makes dinner and provides a relaxed home setting.
Before home games she often shows up 90 minutes or so early and makes her way down to the court to “check on my babies. Some of the players from out of town might not have anyone at the game so I let them know there’s someone here for them. They call me the team mom.”
She’s often assisted by her friend Beth Johnson, a Wayne High grad from Oakwood, who Trey calls his godmother and sometimes “my white mom.”
She helped him prepare for his ACT in high school, goes to away games when Tracy can’t because of her work and school commitments and sometimes she travels with Tracy to games, as they’ll do for the A-10 Tournament in Brooklyn.
“They’re Salt-n-Pepper,” Trey laughed.
“I call us Thelma and Louise,” Tracy grinned.
Understanding his role
After a humbling freshman year – when he played in just nine games for a grand total of 52 minutes and scored 27 points – Landers was thrown for even more of a loop when coach Archie Miller left for Indiana at the end of the season.
He was unsure who would take over and wondered if his prospects might dim even more.
“I had every type of thought, every type of feeling going through my head,” Landers said. “I was young and I was thrown off by everything. I didn’t know what to do.”
“But then my brother and Ryan and Xeyrius (former Flyer Xeyrius Williams) and (Charles) Cooke and a lot of the guys kind of kept me level headed. They told me to stay and see how it goes.”
Dayton's Ryan Mikesell and Trey Landers look ahead to Senior Night
Tracy said she and her dad, who lives in Texas, and Trey’s uncle from Atlanta were telling him the same thing.
“I’m so glad I listened,” Landers smiled. “I mean, look where I am today!”
Grant took over and he has blossomed since.
“I told Trey that hard work never goes unnoticed,” Tracy said.
Landers said he just had to understand his role:
“If you look at all the good teams, they have one or two guys who are the star players and everybody else is a role player.
“We have Jalen Crutcher, who’s an All American, and Obi Toppin, who’s the best player in the country. I realized if you’re not the star you still can impact winning. You still impact the team. Ryan and our other guys do it too and when you do that, good things happen.”
Grant talked about this team building a legacy and making history and that means, like Trey said, there may be more rings in the offing.
And that makes Tracy smile because she’s pretty sure she’ll end up wearing one of them:
“Trey will come over to the house and he’ll leave ‘em sitting around by accident. And, well, I’ll just pick it up. He’ll forget it.
“But I won’t.”