Archdeacon: Junior transfer finds a home with Flyers

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Elijah Weaver interview (Jan. 13, 2021)

Elijah Weaver played first two collegiate seasons at USC

He was making a quick comparison chart.

On one side there was:

  • ”The weather. Sunny Southern California, you can’t beat that.”
  • A glitzy Power 5 school (Southern California) in an even glitzier town (Los Angeles.)
  • There was “the diversity of the people. I met so many different people.”
  • And “there’s the food…I love street tacos.”

As for the other side of the ledger, he had didn’t hesitate:

  • There was the “dude.”
  • His assistants.
  • ”My teammates.”

After Wednesday night’s game at UD Arena – a 72-63 Dayton victory over Duquesne – Elijah Weaver was comparing this freshman and sophomore years at his former school to his life now at UD.

The 6-foot-6 junior guard, who played 59 games for USC and started 19, has now played four for the Flyers and started the past two.

While he had some memorable moments as a Trojan – including his late-game heroics last season as USC came from 20 down to topple Stanford after he hit a three at the end of regulation to tie the game and then scored eight points on overtime – he was especially happy about Wednesday night.

The box score – eight points, six assists in 34 minutes on the court – doesn’t tell the whole story.

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Dayton's Elijah Weaver is fouled by Duquesne on Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2021, at UD Arena. David Jablonski/Staff

Dayton's Elijah Weaver is fouled by Duquesne on Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2021, at UD Arena. David Jablonski/Staff

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Dayton's Elijah Weaver is fouled by Duquesne on Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2021, at UD Arena. David Jablonski/Staff

The night helped him solidify the idea that he has found a home at Dayton.

And that’s ironic when you hear him say he’d never heard of the Dayton Flyers before he entered the transfer portal at the end of last season.

When he decided to leave USC, he drew interest from numerous schools just as he had when he went through the recruiting process coming out of Rockledge High School just south of Cocoa, Fla.

“He had more Power 5 schools looking at him, a lot of places with maybe bigger names or in bigger cities,” Maurice Griffin, Weaver’s dad said by phone from Houston.

“But the way Dayton recruited him was special It wasn’t just Coach Grant recruiting him or Coach Greer or Coach Solomon or Coach Hertz. They recruited him as a family. Dayton is family. It’s truly a culture there. You felt the love they have for their players. It was a night and day difference.”

That’s what Weaver was referring to in his comparison list Wednesday night:

“Coach Grant is an unbelievable dude. He was like Coach of the Year last year. I didn’t realize how good he was ‘til I got here. The whole staff talks to us every day us and lets us know they believe in us.”

As for the players: “From the time I got here to now they made me feel at home.”

Griffin said his son is “really happy there.

“This is the right choice for him. I’ve never been so sure about a decision as I am about him coming to Dayton.”

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Dayton's Elijah Weaver shoots against Duquesne on Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2021, at UD Arena. David Jablonski/Staff

Dayton's Elijah Weaver shoots against Duquesne on Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2021, at UD Arena. David Jablonski/Staff

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Dayton's Elijah Weaver shoots against Duquesne on Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2021, at UD Arena. David Jablonski/Staff

Athletic parents

Weaver picked up the athletic genes from both his parents.

His mom, Taucia Brown, was a champion softball player, he said. But when it came to basketball, he followed a path uncannily similar to his dad’s.

Both of them went to Ronald McNair Junior High, the school in Rockledge named after the NASA astronaut who was killed in the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster in 1986.

When he was in junior high, Griffin said he considered himself a football player, though he and his buddies would play basketball for fun before school started and during PE classes. That’s how Ken Sackey, the middle school basketball coach spotted him, and tried for two years to talk him into joining his hoops team.

Griffin finally relented and found he was a basketball natural. As a senior a Rockledge High, he was Space Coast Player of the Year and ended up playing at Bethune Cookman College.

“Now fast forward 20 years and Elijah is at the same school and he’s playing football, too,” Griffin said. “And sure enough, he’s playing basketball one day when Mr. Sackey sees him.

“He wasn’t the coach anymore, he was the dean of students, but he said, ‘You should be playing basketball.’

“Elijah said, ‘No, I’m a football player.’

" Mr. Sackey stayed on him and Elijah said, ’'Man, you sound just like my dad!’

“And Mr. Sackey goes, ‘Who’s your dad?’ When he said, ‘Maurice…’ Mr. Sackey was like, ‘Whaaat?’

Griffin said his son tried basketball and “dropped 30″ in his first game.

“Now for football, he had a Cam Newton rib protector and an Odell Beckham face shield. He had Richard Sherman arm sleeves and Deion Sanders shoes. I’d spent over $400 on all that stuff and after that first basketball game he brings me all his football stuff and says, ‘Dad, I don’t want to play football anymore.’”

Griffin started to laugh: “I was like, ‘Geez, you couldn’t have told me before I bought all this!’”

His son played at Florida Air Academy in nearby Melbourne as a freshman and then for two seasons at Oldsmar Christian near Tampa.

As a senior, he came to his dad’s alma mater – Rockledge High – and averaged 23.1 points and over eight rebounds and assists game. He was named Florida’s 6a Player of the Year and ESPN ranked him the No. 37 overall prep prospect – and No. 12 point guard – in the nation.

He had numerous scholarship offers – including to Ohio State, Louisville, Florida, Arizona, Oklahoma State and Miami – and chose USC.

Griffin understood some of the allure: “If he and the guys wanted to do, there were all kinds of choices. There’s a Lakers game, Clippers games or you can watch the Rams. And the Dodgers are right down the road.”

Although he started the first 14 games last season and then came off the bench after that, Weaver – who averaged 6.6 points per game -- said the connection no longer felt quite right and he decided to transfer.

He eventually narrowed his choices to Arkansas, Central Florida and Dayton.

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Dayton's Elijah Weaver shoots against Duquesne on Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2021, at UD Arena. David Jablonski/Staff

Dayton's Elijah Weaver shoots against Duquesne on Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2021, at UD Arena. David Jablonski/Staff

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Dayton's Elijah Weaver shoots against Duquesne on Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2021, at UD Arena. David Jablonski/Staff

‘He can be a big part of what we’re doing’

After Wednesday’s game, Grant spoke of Weaver’s size and speed and versatility:

“As he gets more comfortable with the system, more comfortable with his role and his teammates, he can be a big part of what we’re doing.”

Initially, Weaver was expected to sit out this season to meet NCAA transfer rules. In the process he would learn from the Flyers trio of senior guards, Jalen Crutcher, Ibi Watson and Rodney Chatman.

But because the COVID pandemic has turned everything topsy-turvy, the NCAA granted a waiver to all transfers so they could play this season and, as is the case with all other players, it won’t take away a year of eligibility.

The ruling was made in mid-December and four days later Weaver was suddenly playing against Ole Miss, though he didn’t score in eight minutes,

He then missed the next two games for what he said Wednesday had been a calf injury sustained in practice. He returned just as Chatman tore ligaments in his right hand and underwent surgery that will sideline him six to eight weeks.

Weaver has now played three games in the past 10 days, coming off the bench in a loss at Fordham and then starting against Davidson, where he scored 11 points, and Wednesday night.

A little while after the game, he had to chuckle when he looked at his phone:

“My dad just texted me and said he watched the game and had broke it all down. He wanted me to respond. It would be our film session.”

Griffin works for United Airlines and that enables him to fly to games for free and then return home on the redeye. He did it when his son was at USC and once COVID restrictions are lifted, he hopes to do it here.

“I can’t wait for my parents to come here and see a game,” Weaver said. “I can’t wait to see one with a crowd too. I’ve only seen videos and photos and they tell me I can’t get the full picture from that. I can’t wait to see the Arena packed. Oh my god!”

That may further tilt the comparison tables.

Now if he can just find some street tacos.

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