Dayton’s Anthony Grant: ‘Next step on everyone’s mind’

UD coaches kept focus on academics this spring with players finishing classes at home

Anthony Grant’s wife Chris has done most of the shopping for the family during the coronavirus pandemic. Sometimes he goes with her. They work out: running, walking, biking, etc.

» SCHEDULING NEWS: Dayton adds to non-conference slate

“She’s a lot more active than I am,” Grant said. “She gets her exercise in pretty much every day. I’m an every-other day type guy.”

In short, the life of the Dayton Flyers coach isn’t much different than your average Ohioan’s this spring. He and Chris filmed a video for Gov. Mike DeWine in March urging people to stay at home during the COVID-19 crisis. They filmed another video April 22 for Premier Health, thanking the healthcare heroes for their work on the front lines of the pandemic.

“That’s what it’s all about,” Grant said. “We’re hopefully gonna do everything that we can to help the community and help people get through this. We’re at that point where the thought is, ‘Hey, can we get back to opening things back up?’ What’s the next step is on everyone’s mind.”

That’s a question with no sure answer right now. The greatest season of Grant’s coaching career ended March 12 with the Flyers sitting on a school-record 29 victories. Just five days after ESPN’s GameDay visited campus and the Flyers closed the regular season with a dominant second-half performance on Senior Night against George Washington, the season ended with the announcement of the cancellation of the NCAA tournament.

Dayton flew home and had one last team meeting. Grant also got to meet with each of the players individually. Those conversations centered on how the players were getting home with school closed and the importance of keeping up with classes online.

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Academics continue to be the focus of conversation. The term ended Thursday. Players have had to adjust to working on their own at home without the routine they’re used to.

“This is finals week,” Grant said Wednesday. “We’ve got everybody finishing up all the stuff they need to get done. We’re doing OK. We’ll make it through the semester. I’m keeping my fingers crossed. I think Trey (Landers) has one or two more things to turn in, and we’ll get him graduated, which would be great.”

Once classes ended, Grant planned to talk more basketball with his players. He has had three meetings on Zoom with all the players and coaches. There were 17 faces crammed in the Zoom window in a photo shared by Dayton assistant coach Anthony Solomon on Twitter in April. The group included seven returning players players, assuming Jalen Crutcher and Ibi Watson don’t keep their names in the NBA Draft.

The coaching and training staff also meets at least once a week on Zoom to talk about recruiting and offseason projects. Plenty of other communication is done by phone calls and text messages.

» RECRUITING: Grant says UD remains active this spring

Dayton’s players scattered all over the country after the season ended. Every player returned home to their families except freshman Moulaye Sissoko, who’s staying with a host family in Iowa. Sissoko, who’s from Mali, stayed with the same family during breaks when he was attending Lincoln Academy in Georgia.

The abrupt ending of the season meant Grant did not get asked about the development of Sissoko and the other freshman who redshirted: Zimi Nwokeji.

Sissoko practiced with the team the whole season after missing some of the summer practices with an injury. Nwokeji arrived on campus in January.

“I think (the redshirt year) definitely benefited (Sissoko),” Grant said. “During the course of the season, the challenge for him was staying engaged in terms of taking care of his academics. There were times when he traveled (with the team). There were times when he didn’t travel. Overall, I would hope that it was a benefit to him. That’s something you don’t really know until you get them back together and you see, OK, here’s here’s the strides he’s made. It’s hard for me to really judge it. Most of my focus during the end of the year was on our team.

“In Zimi’s case, I thought he did a good job acclimating to the culture. That’s not easy to do. The team’s already got the terminology and everything. He had to pick all that up, but I thought he was able to take advantage of learning what was expected in the weight room and will be expected on the court.”

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Grant and his coaches have also done their best to communicate with three incoming freshmen: Lukas FrazierKoby Brea and R.J. Blakney. Typically, they would arrive on campus sometime in June and enroll in the second session of summer classes. That's when Dayton conducts it's most important on-court practices of the summer.

With UD going to online classes through the end of the summer, it’s still up in the air if Dayton will be able to practice this summer.

“That’s something probably we’ll hear from the governor in terms of how the restrictions get lifted,” Grant said.

In the meantime, Grant will remain at home with his family. His four kids are staying with him and Chris. He’s a long way from being able to look back on last season and celebrate the greatest regular season in school history.

“You always remember how it ended,” Grant said, “but you’ve got a choice, right, in what you want to focus on and how you want to feel about it. We haven’t really talked a lot about any of that, other than right when it ended. Obviously, the guys understood the magnitude of what we’re dealing with. When you look at what’s happening across the country with the number of cases and the deaths that have occurred from it, this thing is — like we said at the beginning — bigger than basketball. You hope at some point we’ll know what’s next. I think we’re trying to figure out the next step, just like everybody else. So in the meantime, all we can do is just do our part to try to keep ourselves and keep our neighbors and our families safe.”

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