Dayton basketball fans meet players at tailgating event

Players sign autographs, pose for photos outside Welcome Stadium

If fans of the Dayton Flyers learned anything Saturday, they learned the women’s team can dance much better than the men’s team.

Shauna Green’s players got things going at a fan fest tailgating event outside Welcome Stadium with some line dancing before players from both teams were introduced to the crowd. Green joked about needing to work her players harder since they had so much energy.

The fan fest replaced the annual Red and Blue Games, and while there was no basketball played, fans at least got a glimpse of the players they'll be rooting for starting in November. For fans of the men's team, especially, it was a chance to see the five freshmen in person for the first time: Jordan Davis, Jordan Pierce, Jalen Crutcher, Matej Svoboda and Obadiah Toppin.

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Those players are one reason most fans don’t know what to expect from the men’s team, which has won back-to-back Atlantic 10 Conference regular-season championship and played in the NCAA Tournament four straight years. Many fans still have the same high hopes, of course.

“I think they’re selling them way too short,” said Dayton fan Dave Crumley, of Centerville. “Street and Smith’s says they’re going to be eighth (in the A-10). Somebody says they’re going to be fifth. I think you’re looking at the worst maybe fourth but I’m guessing the top three. You’ve got some good players, and you’ve got some sleepers people aren’t thinking about.”

All the players appeared at the event. Men’s coach Anthony Grant missed it because he was on the road recruiting. His players hear about UD’s fan base from the moment the recruiting process starts. This event reminded them of the energy they will get from the fans at UD Arena when they take the court for an exhibition game Nov. 4 against Ohio Dominican and when the regular season begins Nov. 10 against Ball State.

“The support is so crazy, and it’s like that every game,” redshirt junior forward Josh Cunningham said. “We’re like the main attraction in the city of Dayton. They always come out and support us. They always give it their all, and even when it’s an exhibition game, they still come out.”

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Pierce arrived on campus May 27 during UD’s first summer session. At 6-foot-11, he’s easy to spot on campus, so he has met many fans in the last four-plus months.

“Most people usually ask, ‘How tall are you?’ things like that,” Pierce said. “They don’t even ask if I play basketball. They know I play basketball.”

Like the men’s team, the women’s will try to defend an A-10 championship. The Flyers tied for the regular-season title and then won the conference tournament. Fans can see them for the first time in an exhibition game against Findlay on Nov. 4 at UD Arena.

“Practices are going well so far,” Green said. “These guys are working extremely hard. I’m really proud of where we’re at. I’m really excited about the season. It’s not much longer. I think we have three weeks until our exhibition game. I can tell you one thing, these guys every single day are bringing it. They’re giving it everything they have. They’re doing it together.”

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