Seven TBT games were played at the arena last summer, including the championship game, won by the Syracuse alumni team, Boeheim’s Army.
This will be the fourth time the Red Scare has played in the TBT. Joey Gruden, who helped former the team with fellow former UD walk-on Jeremiah Bonsu in 2019 and has coached the team the last two seasons, has tried to get Smith to play every year.
“We finally got him,” Gruden said with a laugh Monday. “It’s been a pain in the butt, but we finally got him.”
Gruden and Smith played together for three seasons (2014-17). Now they will both experience games in front of Dayton fans again. Last year, the Red Scare needed to win three games at Ohio State’s Covelli Center to advance to the quarterfinals at UD Arena, but it lost to Category 5, a team of University of Miami alums, in the second round. This time, they could play as many as six games at their old home in pursuit of the $1 million prize.
“I think just having it back at UD was a big selling point,” Gruden said, “and him finally working out his schedule and his brother playing at UD, it was just a perfect storm. I think it was just the right time.”
Malachi Smith, Smith’s brother and Dayton’s starting point guard last season as a freshman, will be on campus with the rest of the Flyers when the Red Scare plays in the tournament.
Scoochie ranks 28th in Dayton history with 1,289 points and ninth with 485 assists. He shares first place with Chris Wright in games played (138). Smith, Kendall Pollard and Kyle Davis, all members of Dayton’s 2013 recruiting class, are the only players in school history to play in four consecutive NCAA tournaments.
Smith’s last game at UD Arena came on March 1, 2017. Dayton beat VCU 79-72 on Senior Night to clinch the Atlantic 10 Conference regular-season championship outright for the first time.
Smith has visited Dayton every year since graduated in 2017 but has not been back for a game at UD Arena since February 2019.
“It’s definitely going to be dope to play in the arena,” he said.
The official Red Scare Twitter account (@FlyersTBT) put out a Tweet earlier this week with a screenshot of a direct message from Smith. In the message, Smith said he would play if the Tweet was shared 500 times. It didn’t take long to reach that number. Of course, Smith had already agreed to play by then.
Gruden has seen the fans asking for Smith to play every year.
“Even when he said no, I would continue to ask him,” Gruden said, “so I’ve been driving him nuts, and now that he’s on the team, I’ll still drive him nuts. But it finally worked out, and I think it’s gonna be great.”
Smith said it’s difficult for overseas players to commit to the TBT for a variety of reasons.
“Most guys are playing eight to 10 months of the year,” he said, “and then there’s the commitment process. They want you to commit now. You don’t have time to think about it. You’re in the middle of your season. You’re worried about coming home the last two months of the season or winning a championship. You’re thinking, ‘Am I going to play?’ Then it’s like, ‘Am I going to waste my summer?’ I’ve already been committed for nine to 10 months. I only have a little bit of time. Then the next thing is there’s no compensation for all the other teams, only the team that won. You’ve got think, is it worth it? One year I saw a guy get hurt. He didn’t get no money. He couldn’t go overseas. There’s a lot of different factors for a lot of people, but it’s also a great opportunity.”
Four of Smith’s former Dayton teammates — Vee Sanford, Darrell Davis, Ryan Mikesell and Trey Landers — have also committed to play. Smith was a freshman in the 2013-14 season when Sanford was a senior. Smith and Davis played together for three seasons (2014-17). Smith and Mikesell played together for two seasons (2015-17). Landers was a freshman in Smith’s senior season.
The roster also includes one non-Flyer Joe Thomasson, a Thurgood Marshall graduate who played at Wright State from 2014-16. Another roster addition will be announced later this month, and Gruden wants to add one more big man on top of that.
Smith has spent most of his career overseas since graduating from Dayton. He has played the last two seasons with Mega Bemax of the Basketball League of Serbia. He averaged 7.4 points and 5.6 assists this season. He returned to the United States last week.
“We finally have a true point guard,” Gruden said. “He fits the mold perfectly and can create plays for his teammates and score on his own. We’re super excited, and I know the fans will be as well.”