“There’s a lot to be proud of in that young man.”
Off the court Landers had to cope with the murder of his father – Bobby Landers – who was shot in front of a muffler shop on Salem Avenue in December of 2006. He once told me how his mom got a call soon afterward and was told something could happen to the family if they went to the funeral.
They ended up going to the wake, but not the burial and today the case remains unsolved.
Landers, who was just eight when his father as killed, was deeply affected by the loss and remembers him in various ways, including a tattoo on the inside of his left foreman that shows a man holding a child aloft and the message: “Dad I know you are always walking beside me.”
On the court Landers — following a standout career at Wayne High School — ended up stuck on the bench his freshman season at UD. Then Coach Archie Miller – who had a veteran team that would make the NCAA Tournament – put him in just nine games for a total of 52 minutes, fewest of the team’s 11 scholarship players.
Dayton’s Trey Landers reacts after scoring and being fouled against Fordham on Saturday, Feb. 1, 2020, at UD Arena. David Jablonski/Staff
When Grant took over the next season, Landers became a starter. But the team — hit hard by graduation and strained by discord from a couple of players — struggled to a 14-17 record. Last year the team turned the corner, went 21-12 and made the NIT, but Landers had to deal with shoulder injury.
This season – with Landers starting all but one game – the Flyers are 20-2, on an 11-game winning streak and 9-0 in Atlantic 10 play coming into Saturday’s game with St. Louis at UD Arena. Their No. 6 ranking is the Flyers’ highest in 53 years.
While Landers is second on the team in both rebounds (5.9 per game) and steals and fourth in scoring (11.3), Grant stressed that: “Sometimes you look at the numbers and they don’t begin to tell the story of what Trey’s impact is on this team.”
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Earlier this season – after mentioning Landers’ senior leadership, his voice on the court and the way he’s the “glue” of the team – Grant effused that he may well be the most valuable player on the team.
After Saturday’s game, Landers – who led the team with 18 points and eight rebounds – was asked about Grant’s pride in the way he has endured whatever has come his way,
“I’ve always been told you gotta go through something to become something,” he said.
He said he’s handled the tough times thanks to his older brother Robert or BB as he’s known — the standout defensive lineman for the Ohio State Buckeyes, who’s now preparing for the NFL draft — and, most importantly because of his mom, Tracy Mathews.
After his father’s death, Landers said she raised her three boys – BB, Trey and Tallice, now a freshman at Central State — by herself, often working two or three jobs at once.
She remains a hands-on parents, involved in her kids’ sporting ventures while also setting an example both with her work ethic and her push to always better herself.
She already has a nursing degree and now she said she’s just seven weeks away from getting her master’s degree in health care administration operations at Capella University, the online school based in Minneapolis, Minn.
As she waited just beyond the Flyers’ locker room after Saturday’s game, she managed a laugh about her own books and basketball challenge:
“I should have told Trey he’s got to hurry up. I’ve got to get out of here. I’ve got to go home and do my homework. It’s due tomorrow at midnight.”
Athletic prowess from mom
Landers guessed he got his athletic talents from his mom:
“My dad wasn’t really much into sports, but my mom played volleyball in high school.”
Tracy said she received All-City honors as a volleyball player at Dunbar High School. Since then her sports involvements have centered around her kids.
“My biggest thing being the parent of young men is that you get out of them what you put into them,” she said. “I’ve always been big about spending time with my boys. They’re my best friends and I’ve tried to stay active with them.
“I didn’t play football, but I’d go outside and play with them. And basketball, I couldn’t shoot a ball, but I was Trey’s rebounder and, after that, Tallice’s, too.
“And when Trey really wanted to go to the gym or BB wanted to go work out at the Y when we lived in Huber Heights, I’d go along and sit on the floor in the corner and do my homework.”
Dayton senior Trey Landers and his mom Tracy Mathews. CONTRIBUTED
She made sure they had male figures in their lives, as well:
“They had some great mentors – their Uncle Bobby Clancy, Uncle Jay Mendelson, my brother Terry Mathews and Uncle Tallice, their dad’s brother. They’ve been my go-to guys to learn what I didn’t know being a single mom raising young men.”
And each child presented a different challenge, she said:
“Robert and Trey are night and day different. Robert is more laid back and easy going. When he was little there were times you didn’t even know he was in the house, he was so quiet.
“But Trey? He was exactly what you see now — a little rambunctious. In our house, if you heard something falling, something breaking, if you heard a basketball bouncing, it was Trey.”
Landers said a lot of his sports lessons have been passed down to him by his brother: Not just in terms of energy and effort on the court, but with how he’s trying to share what he knows — as is fellow senior Ryan Mikesell — with his teammates.
Grant has seen that: “Just ask anybody on the team and they’ll tell you Trey is like a big brother to them.”
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Tracy agreed: “He brings the guys over to our house a lot. Usually it’s Jalen (Crutcher), Dwayne (Cohill) and Obi (Toppin). A lots of times I feed them and we sit and talk about everything from school and basketball to girls. I think they feel comfortable at our place.”
‘We all know how special this team can be’
Landers said before the season he met with Grant who stressed one thing – “Know what your role is” – to him.
“The biggest thing for really good teams is that they have really good role players,” Landers said. “They make the team better.”
And his role?
He smiled: “Play defense, get in transition, shoot open shots… and play more defense. The majority of the time I try to be the vocal guy for the team. They call me the glue guy – the guy that helps hold us together – and I take pride in that.
Trey Landers: Dayton will be a 'very special team'
“I’m willing to do whatever it takes to make this team successful. At the end of the day, I have to be there for the other guys. To pass on the wisdom I know.
“We all know how special this team can be.”
The Flyers are special already for a lot of reasons and one big one is Trey Landers, the guy who’s gone “through something to become something.”
That’s why Anthony Grant is so proud of him.