Cedarville coach on exhibition opponent: ‘Dayton’s going to be loaded’

The Cedarville University basketball team poses for a photo on campus on Friday, Aug. 23, 2019. Submitted photo

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The Cedarville University basketball team poses for a photo on campus on Friday, Aug. 23, 2019. Submitted photo

Pat Estepp’s Division II program finished 21-12 last season

Pat Estepp started his coaching career 23 years ago with the eighth-grade boys team at Cedarville Junior High School. He was a senior at Cedarville University at the time but not playing for the Yellow Jackets.

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“This is probably the best coaching I ever did in my life and some of the worst,” Estepp said with a laugh on Monday. “We were playing Yellow Springs. You have no scouts. You don’t know what you’re going to face. This is back when they had a couple studs. They had two guys dunking in warmups. They beat us 83-20 in the first time we played them. The next time we played them, we were ready for their 1-2-2 zone and their trap. We played the triangle-and-two and got beat by three in overtime.”

All these years later, Estepp is still coaching in Cedarville — he's entering his 12th season as head coach for the Cedarville University men's team — but doesn't have to worry about lacking information about opponents. He already knows how good one of his early-season opponents, the Dayton Flyers, who Cedarville will play in an exhibition game at 5 p.m. Nov. 2 at UD Arena, will be in the 2019-20 season.

“I think Dayton’s going to be loaded,” Estepp said. “They’ve got a really talented group coming back and have their transfers getting eligible this year.”

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Several area colleges pursued the exhibition game with Dayton. Estepp has contacted Dayton in the past in hopes of scheduling the game and was excited Dayton picked his program this season. The game comes three days after Cedarville plays Ohio State in an exhibition game in Columbus.

“We are excited,” Estepp said. “It’s huge for us, these two games, because we’ve been trying to do a better job recruiting in Ohio. Regardless of what happens with the score, they’re good moves for us in recruiting.”

Last season, Cedarville played two Division I teams. It lost 70-50 to Akron and 58-39 to Wright State.

Dayton and Cedarville once played regularly in the regular season. They met 28 times between the 1904-05 and the 1949-50 seasons. Dayton won 23 of the games.

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This will be the fourth straight season Dayton has played an Ohio school in an exhibition. It beat Capital 89-71 last season, Ohio Dominican 79-61 in 2017 and Findlay 76-69 in 2016.

Cedarville has one Dayton-area graduate on the roster: senior guard Demond Parker, a Wayne graduate.

“We’ve got just about everybody back,” Estepp said. “We return 55 points a game. They feel like we can at least make them guard some stuff. They don’t want to play against a matchup zone the whole time. Nobody really wants to do that in an exhibition game. So we won’t do what we typically do, which is that, but we’ll show that some. If they want to see a zone and a little press, they know they’re at least going to get a good one. These kind of games, you talk to each other, and it’s almost like a scrimmage in front of 12,000 people.”

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Estepp expects his team to bring 500 to 1,000 fans to UD Arena for the game. Cedarville averaged 867 fans for 13 games at the Callan Athletic Center last season.

“When you talk about atmosphere, we’re as excited about this one as any game we’re going to play,” Estepp said.

Estepp hopes the exhibition games prepare his team for the regular season. Cedarville finished 14-6 last season in the Great Midwest Athletic Conference and lost in the semifinals of the conference tournament to sixth-ranked Findlay. Cedarville then won the National Christian College Athletic Association championship for the second time and first time since 2012.

Looking back, Estepp said the move to Division II was a good thing but also a tough challenge. Cedarville finished 23-9 in its NCAA provisional year, when it wasn’t eligible for the postseason, and then 22-9 in its first season in Division II. Then it graduated six seniors and hit a five-year stretch of losing seasons.

Last season, the Yellow Jackets got back on the right side of .500 with a 21-12 mark.

“We’ve been very blessed in our last two years of recruiting,” Estepp said. “I think we’re getting those borderline, fringe Division I guys, and that’s what you’ve got to get to be a really good Division II team.”

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