Crutcher: Dayton assistant Kane has ‘an eye for talent’

Dayton Flyers 2021-22 coaching staff

Two players who know James Kane, who returned to Anthony Grant’s staff this spring, praise his recruiting abilities

Jalen Crutcher joined the ranks of the Flyer Faithful when his college career ended in March. He’s now a fan of the program and will cheer from afar for his former teammates and coaches.

The news of assistant coach James Kane returning to the Dayton Flyers in May gave Crutcher an extra reason to stay connected to the program. Kane was the assistant coach in charge of recruiting Crutcher in the spring of 2017. Crutcher knows as well as anyone what Kane can do on the recruiting trail.

“I‘m really excited about him coming back,” said Crutcher, who has been training in Frisco, Texas, for the start of his pro career. “I know he’s going to bring in some great players. I think Dayton’s in good hands with him back.”

The 2021-22 season will be Kane’s seventh on a team coached by Anthony Grant. Grant gave Kane his first job in college basketball as a graduate assistant at Virginia Commonwealth in 2006. Kane then earned a promotion to video coordinator for Grant’s final two seasons in Richmond. When Grant got the head coaching job at Alabama, Kane followed him and spent two seasons in Tuscaloosa as a video coordinator. They reunited again in Grant’s first season at Dayton.

“My relationship with coach Grant goes beyond basketball,” Kane said. “I’m just very excited to be back and be a part of the program. I’m very blessed to have Anthony Grant in my life.”

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Even before Kane returned to Dayton after three seasons at Iowa State, he had connections to two of the transfers joining the program.

Kane helped recruit Toumani Camara during the 2017-18 season. Camara, a 6-foot-8 forward, picked Georgia over Dayton and Kansas State but transferred to Dayton this spring and arrived on campus in May.

Kane left Dayton for Iowa State after the 2017-18 season, and while on Steve Prohm’s staff, he recruited Kobe Elvis, a 6-2 guard who eventually signed with DePaul. Elvis announced May 14 he would transfer to Dayton and will head to Dayton after completing classes at DePaul. The spring semester ends Friday.

Elvis praised Kane’s recruiting abilities even though he ended up going to DePaul, which didn’t have a roster as guard heavy as Iowa State’s at the time.

“Ever since then, we’ve kept in close contact,” Elvis said. “For him, it was always more than just trying to recruit me to come play basketball for us. It was more about building long-term, long-lasting relationships. You could tell he was genuine and just enjoyed having conversations and talking about basketball or whatever.”

Elvis was already strongly considering Dayton when Kane returned to the staff this spring. Anthony Solomon played a big role in his recruitment before leaving for Notre Dame as did Grant.

“(Grant) was super hands on, which I really liked,” Elvis said. “He made me feel welcome. All the coaches actually were really involved. I think I Facetimed probably everybody. I had a couple Zooms with everybody on it, and my family was on it, which they really enjoyed: my parents, my two older brothers and a close family member.”

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Kane arrived at Dayton at an important time this spring. Starting June 1, Division I coaches could travel for recruiting for the first time since the pandemic began in March of 2020.

While Dayton’s roster could conceivably be the same in the 2022-23 season as it will be in the 2021-22 season because everyone on the current roster has at least two years of eligibility remaining, the ability of players to transfer without sitting out makes it likely there will be player movement on every roster across the country every season. That means the recruiting will continue for 2022 with recruiting for the classes of 2023 and beyond going on at the same time.

In the coming years, Kane may have a hard time topping the first recruit he helped Dayton land. Crutcher finished his career ranked 16th in Dayton history in scoring with 1,593 points. Dayton started recruiting him not long after he changed his mind about attending Chattanooga because of a coaching change.

Kane, who was at Murray State prior to joining Grant’s staff, knew about Crutcher when he was at Murray State, Crutcher said.

“When I got my release and started playing AAU again, that’s when he came back and started watching,” Crutcher said. “He was texting me, texting my family, saying he really wanted me. Then I finally went on a visit to Dayton, and it was just the best decision of my life. Coach Kane did a great job recruiting me. He’s one of the best recruiters. He’s shown it.”

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Crutcher isn’t the biggest name Kane has recruited. The story of him discovering Ja Morant, an unranked recruit in the class of 2017, and convincing him to attend Murray State has been told often. Morant became one of the top players in college basketball, the No. 2 pick of the Memphis Grizzlies in 2019 and the NBA Rookie of the Year in 2020.

Crutcher and Morant got to know each other while playing in Memphis during the pandemic in 2020. They bonded in part because of the shared connection with Kane.

“He recruited Ja,” Crutcher said. “You see how Ja turned out. He recruited me to Dayton, and I had a great career at Dayton. He has the eye for talent.”

What makes Kane an effective recruiter?

“He’s going to be honest with you,” Crutcher said. “He’s not going to tell you what you want to hear. He’s going to check up on you, but he’s not going to blow your phone up. You can trust him. He just kept it real from day one.”

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