The Dayton Flyers made a big deal last winter of the senior class winning a school-record 102 games in four seasons. Those five seniors had good reason to celebrate. They put a stamp on the program that will last as long as any banners that hang from the rafters at UD Arena.
That record could last for a long time, though there’s a small chance it will fall this March. Dayton has only two seniors on the 2017-18 roster: guard Darrell Davis and walk-on guard Joey Gruden, who’s a fifth-year senior.
The Flyers will have to win 27 games in the 2017-18 for Davis and Gruden to pass Scoochie Smith, Kyle Davis, Kendall Pollard, Charles Cooke and Jeremiah Bonsu. Davis has mentioned that possibility to Pollard, knowing how difficult it will be with a young team and a new coaching staff.
“That’s going to be very tough,” Davis said.
Davis, a graduate of Frederick Douglass High School in Detroit, will enter his senior year in high spirits, thanks to a strong offseason conditioning and training plan. He’s also a bit nervous about what the new season might bring.
Dayton has five true freshmen plus redshirt freshmen Kostas Antetokounmpo. Junior forward Ryan Mikesell will miss the season after undergoing two hip surgeries. That means half of the 12 available scholarship players have never played a game at UD Arena.
“Obviously, it’s a whole different nucleus,” Davis said. “Different team, different system, different coaching staff, different everything. At the same time I’m blessed to have somebody come in like Anthony Grant. To have the abilities he has to coach a team that is new, I feel we have a lot of talent this year to do something really special.”
Davis scored 531 points in his first three seasons, averaging 4.8 as a freshman, then 5.8 and 5.5. He has made 119 3-pointers in his career. If he makes 40 3-pointers as he did last year, he would finish his career tied for eighth place in UD history.
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Davis has seen his 3-point accuracy rise and fall and rise again, from 45.2 to 29.1 to 38.5. His accuracy inside the 3-point arc has a similar chart: 18.9, then 48.6 and 23.8 last season. To improve his two-point field-goal percentage, Davis has spent the offseason working on his ball-handling skills and finishing shots at the rim.
“That’s what me and coach Anthony Grant talked about,” Davis said. “He knows I’m fast and can shoot. He wants to add areas to my game: finishing through contact and being a leader and getting my teammates involved.”
How does a player work on making a layup in traffic? Davis said coaches hit him across the shoulders and legs and all kinds of different ways with a black pad as he shoots.
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Adding strength will also help Davis finish those shots. It’s obvious at a quick glance he has added muscle this summer. People ask him about it all the time. His goal is to weigh 175-180 pounds. Dayton listed him at 174 pounds on the roster last season. He weighed 168 as a freshman.
New strength coach Casey Cathrall has had an immediate impact on Davis, since he returned to campus in late June.
“Oh that man Casey is somebody you dream about,” Davis said. “I didn’t know what I was getting myself into. I was the last guy to meet Casey. I wasn’t here the first summer session. Once I got to meet him and see his workouts and what he wanted to do with the team, I knew it was going to be something special. I’ve worked on things I’ve never worked on. It’s amazing. He’s getting me better in all aspects.”
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Davis appreciated the opportunity to spend time at home in Detroit earlier this summer.
“I wanted to get with my family a little bit more,” Davis said. “I wasn’t with them the first three years I was here. I wanted to make them feel loved.”
Now that he’s back on campus, Davis has spent more time on the court getting to know the new coaching staff.
“One thing I would say on how Anthony is different from Archie is he doesn’t talk as much,” Davis said, “but when he says something, he wants it done and he means it. He’s more laid back than Archie, but if he wants something done, he’s going to say it one time and he’s not going to repeat it. Do it, or you’re going to suffer the consequences.”
Davis hopes he’s setting an example for his younger teammates. He wants to be a captain.
“It’s very important,” Davis said. “As a veteran, you want to lead the team. You want to give them hope so they know we can compete in any atmosphere, any environment. I want to be a captain, but I feel it won’t make or break me. I’m going to be the same person on and off the court.”