Dayton Flyers alums on playing overseas: Soak it in and work hard

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

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Devin Oliver follows up miss by Kyle Davis to deliver 80-78 victory in The Basketball Tournament.

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Former Flyers to play in France, Argentina and many other countries in 2019-20 season

Kyle Davis found a home in Mercedes, Argentina, that reminds him of his old home.

“A lot of fan support,” Davis said. “The organization likes me. It feels comfortable — just like Dayton.”

Davis was a Dayton Flyers fan favorite from 2013-17, scoring 830 points and earning a reputation as a defensive stopper. His teammate Scoochie Smith, a 2017 graduate like Davis, ran the point then. At the pro level, Davis has become a point guard.

“I had to change my game around, playing professionally and in the G League,” Davis said. “Archie (Miller) had me playing at the three, the two sometimes. Now I’m playing at the one and off the ball from time to time. It’s opened my eyes. It took my game to a whole other level, being able to run a team and score. I think it really helped me.”

» PHOTOS: Dayton alums play in The Basketball Tournament

Davis played last season for Comunicaciones in Argentina and will return to the team for the 2019-20 season. He said Comunicaciones has unfinished business after finishing fourth in the regular season and advancing to the semifinals of the national tournament.

Davis is one of numerous former Flyers playing in a foreign country. Six of them, including Davis, played together last weekend with the Red Scare in The Basketball Tournament at Capital University in Bexley. They won two games before losing 85-71 to Carmen's Crew in the sweet 16 on Sunday.

Davis, Devin Oliver, Vee Sanford, Kevin Dillard, Kendall Pollard and Darrell Davis spent some time before and during the tournament talking with the Dayton Daily News about what advice they would give to younger players about playing overseas. Here’s what they had to say:

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Dayton alumni team wins 108-82 at Capital University

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Kyle Davis: The Chicago native said it's not an easy transition moving to a different country, but it's a worthwhile experience.

“It’s hard at first, but you get used to it,” Davis said. “To me, it’s beautiful. You go to a different country and experience a new culture while playing basketball. You get to experience something a lot of people don’t. I try to tell people to soak it in. A lot of people tell me that as well. Soak it in because a lot of people don’t to get to travel that far.”

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Damon Goodwin, Devin Oliver, Kyle Davis and Vee Sanford speak after beating Mid-American Unity.

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Oliver: The Kalamazoo, Mich., native was a senior in 2013-14 when Davis was a freshman. He started his pro career in Belgium and then played in Israel and France before spending two seasons in Slovenia, where he met his girlfriend and won a championship in 2017. Last season, he played in Turkey and Germany, matching up with former Dayton teammate Dyshawn Pierre in the FIBA Europe Cup in May and getting together for a drink with Pierre after the final game.

Later this summer, Oliver will return to Europe to play in France with Nanterre 92. He advises young players thinking of making a similar leap to not be afraid of stepping out of their comfort zone.

» UPDATE: How Dayton alums did last season in pro basketball

“A lot of guys are worried about leaving America and the uncertainty of being in a different country,” Oliver said. “I think I found taking that chance, making that jump, it wasn’t easy at first because you’re away from your friends and family, but once you get used to it, it becomes a tremendous experience. I’ve seen so many different places in the world. I’ve been able to be paid to play basketball. Just meeting all these different people and immersing myself in all these different cultures, it’s made me a well-rounded person. No situation can really surprise me.”

Players can make a great living in Europe, Oliver said, though he doesn’t blame players for taking less money to play in the NBA G League.

“(Jordan) Sibert stuck with it and played well and got a chance last year with the Hawks,” Oliver said, “and I assume he’ll do the same this year.”

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Highlights: Red Scare loses in third round of The Basketball Tournament

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Sanford: Like Oliver, Sanford is a 2014 UD graduate. He has travelled all over Europe the last five seasons and even spent time in South America — far from his hometown of Lexington, Ky. He started his pro career in Iceland in 2014. He played 20 games in Colombia in 2015. In 2016, he played in Germany. The last two seasons, he has played in France, and he'll return there for the 2019-20 season to play with Limoges.

» A-10 PREDICTIONS: What do people think of Dayton’s chances?

Sanford’s fiancée is French and urged him to take classes to learn the language. He has picked it up well, he said, though he still has much to learn.

“I try to do interviews in French,” Sanford said. “It’s easier to learn being in the culture, watching TV and interacting with people and hearing it in practice.”

As for advice he would give to young players about playing in a different country, Sanford said, “It’s a grind. It’s not easy, but it can be fun. You’re not at home. The best thing to do is just stick it out, find a hobby and get into the culture. Learning the culture and trying to pick up the language will make it a bit more fun and make the days go by faster. For younger guys, they should be a little bit more adventurous with the country they’re in.”

Kevin Dillard, of the Red Scare, dribbles against The Region in the first round of The Basketball Tournament on Friday, July 19, 2019, at Capital University in Bexley. David Jablonski/Staff
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Kevin Dillard, of the Red Scare, dribbles against The Region in the first round of The Basketball Tournament on Friday, July 19, 2019, at Capital University in Bexley. David Jablonski/Staff

Dillard: The 2013 UD graduate was a senior when Sanford and Oliver were juniors, Dillard started his pro career in Italy. He remembers watching Dayton's 2014 Elite Eight run while in Europe. He has since played all over the globe: Latvia, France, Greece, Belgium, Turkey, New Zealand and Israel. Last season, he played for Aurora in Italy, averaging 15.2 points in 22 games.

» LOOKING BACK: Dillard overcomes obstacles to excel

Dillard, who’s from the Chicago suburb of Flossmoor, moves around a lot, he said, because players sign one-year contracts in Europe, and he also likes to travel. He wants to see as many countries as he can. New Zealand and Israel have been his two favorite stops. He has crossed paths with two former Flyers while playing in Europe: Rob Lowery and Brian Roberts.

Dillard said he has a couple offers for next season.

“I’m just weighing my options and trying to see where I want to go,” he said.

Dillard would advise young players to “follow your gut and believe in yourself because when you go over there you’re by yourself nine times out of 10.”

Kendall Pollard, of the Red Scare, looks for a shot against Carmen’s Crew on Sunday, July 21, 2019.
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Kendall Pollard, of the Red Scare, looks for a shot against Carmen’s Crew on Sunday, July 21, 2019.

Credit: David Jablonski - Staff Writer

Credit: David Jablonski - Staff Writer

Pollard: Like Kyle Davis, Pollard is a Chicago native who graduated from Dayton in 2017. They were part of the winningest class in school history, along with Smith, Charles Cooke and Jeremiah Bonsu.

In his first season in pro basketball in 2017-18, Pollard played in the NBA G League and then in Iceland. He left for Iceland three days after the birth of his son, who’s now 18 months old.

“It was tough,” Pollard said. “I left for three months, but I’ve been a part of his life for 15 months, and I’m building a strong relationship.”

» LOOKING BACK: No ordinary birthday for Pollard in 2017

Pollard spent time in Bloomington, Ind., in the week prior to The Basketball Tournament, working on his game with his former coach Archie Miller and the Indiana players. He hoped to play well in The Basketball Tournament so he had new video to show teams. He wants to get into coaching eventually but still wants to play somewhere, possibly in the G League so he can be close to his son.

This is what Pollard would tell young players about playing overseas: “Don’t be greedy because you might not get what you want right out of the gate. Just work your way up.”

Red Scare’s Darrell Davis shoots a 3-pointer against Carmen’s Crew on Sunday, July 21, 2019.
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Red Scare’s Darrell Davis shoots a 3-pointer against Carmen’s Crew on Sunday, July 21, 2019.

Credit: David Jablonski - Staff Writer

Credit: David Jablonski - Staff Writer

Darrell Davis: The 2018 Dayton grad, a Detroit native who reached the 1,000-point milestone in his final game with the Flyers, played in Hungary and Holland last season. Davis is looking at his options right now, trying to find the best opportunity for the 2019-20 season.

» RELATED: First year in pro ball challenging for Darrell Davis

Davis said he would tell young players, “You’ve got to work. There’s a million guys working at 2, 3, 4 in the morning. It’s not going to be easy at all. Put in the work and be dedicated to it.”