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However, Crosby did show flashes at the end of last season, even as his minutes fluctuated, of being capable of stepping into the starting role. At the midpoint of his college career, after deciding to transfer from Dayton in the spring and then changing his mind, he’s confident he can do just that.
If the Flyers are going to have any chance of contending for a third straight Atlantic 10 championship or playing in the NCAA Tournament for a fifth straight season, they’ll need him to be their most-improved player.
“I think every day my approach was to get better and focus on the small things,” Crosby said Monday before the team’s seventh preseason practice. “I learned through the season. It took me a little while, but when I got it, I got it. Toward the end of the season, I started playing better basketball and turned it over less. I think this season I’m going to go through some ups and downs maybe, but I’m going to get better from it. By the end of the season, you’re going to see the best John Crosby you’ve seen, and it’s going to be like that so on and so forth for the rest of my career.”
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Crosby committed two turnovers in the last seven games of the 2016-17 season. He played 54 minutes in those, including five minutes in Dayton’s two postseason games. In the seven games prior to that, he committed 14 turnovers in 83 minutes.
Crosby's best performance also came in those final seven games. He had 12 points in 12 minutes on 4-of-5 shooting in an 83-70 victory over George Mason on Feb. 21 at UD Arena. That's the Crosby the Flyers will need when the season begins Nov. 10 against Ball State.
Crosby’s quickness makes him a good fit for new coach Anthony Grant’s up-tempo system. Playing under control at the same time and making good decisions with the ball will be the key.
“For John and for all the guys, this is a new system, new terminology, a new way of doing things,” Grant said. “I’ve been really impressed with every guy on our team in their ability to pick things up. For John specifically, his job is to be able to run our team at that point guard spot both offensively and defensively and set the tone for how we want to play. He’s done a good job in being coachable in terms of listening to things that myself and my staff are telling him in terms of the things he needs to do on a consistent basis to accomplish the things he wants to accomplish and help our team get to where it’s trying to get to.”
Crosby has appeared in 63 of 64 games the last two seasons, but if he starts the opener, it will be his first start. Smith never missed a game in four seasons.
Now Dayton has a roster with 10 scholarship players. Half of those players have never appeared in a collegiate game. The backup point guard is Jalen Crutcher, a freshman from Memphis. Senior Darrell Davis has experience at that position as well
The graduation of Smith and his fellow seniors — Charles Cooke, Kyle Davis and Kendall Pollard — opened the door for Crosby and others, and he said they have embraced the opportunity.
“We’ve just been trying to build trust with each other,” Crosby said. “During the offseason, we did a lot of team-building things that will help us with gaining trust. I think we’re in a good spot right now heading into the season and getting ready for the scrimmage we have in about two weeks. I feel confident in the team we have and the coaching staff we’ve got.”
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Dayton has not announced details about that “secret scrimmage.” It can’t publicize the scrimmage, per NCAA rules. In recent seasons, the Flyers have scrimmaged Purdue and Marquette.
With no Red and Blue Game this season, fans won’t be able to see the new-look Flyers until Nov. 4 in an exhibition game against Ohio Dominican. The season officially begins Nov. 10 with a home game against Ball State. That’s when Crosby and his teammates begin the tall task of living up to the standards set by the last senior class, which set a school record with 102 victories in the last four seasons.
“You’re a competitor, so you want to do better than those guys,” Crosby said. “Every day I take it as a challenge to focus on the little things. Being around them, I realize how important the small things are, the details are. Those guys took it very serious. That’s why those guys were so ready for those games and why they were so successful when they played. I learned a lot from them. With this new group and new staff, I take the small things serious, locking in and focusing on the day and not worrying about the season. It’s just getting through every day and trying to get better every day and becoming the best person you can become and the best team you can become. In the long run, it will work out.”