Halfway up the section of stands behind the scorer’s table at the Maui Invitational last week, a particular group of fans wore their lungs out for three days at the Lahaina Civic Center.
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No one cheered louder than Dayton Flyers coach Anthony Grant’s family. His wife Chris was there along with their four kids: Anthony Jr., Preston, Jayda and Makai.
The arena was so loud and Grant was so focused during the games against Georgia, Virginia Tech and Kansas he didn’t notice just how much his family was into the games until later when watching film.
“You could kind of see them bouncing up and down in the stands,” Grant said. “When I got to to the room, they were all hoarse and couldn’t talk. They had a great time. They enjoyed the games. They enjoyed the atmosphere, the festivities.”
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Dayton guard Ibi Watson said he noticed the enthusiasm Grant’s kids brought to the games.
“I looked up at (Anthony Jr.) a couple times during the game, and he was super crazy and excited,” Watson said. “It was awesome to see the fans overall who were that excited to see us play. It’s a little bit more motivation. We just wanted to make them proud.”
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Even some members of the national media noticed Grant’s family. This was an exchange between Grant and a reporter during the press conference following Dayton’s 80-61 first-round victory against Georgia.
“We keep asking about the fans, the Dayton fans,” a reporter asked. “You’ve got your family up in the crowd. At one point Obi (Toppin) is pointing up to your kids, I believe, and they’re just excited and celebrating. What’s it like to have your family here in such a big moment for the program?”
“Ask me when the American Express bill comes at the end of the month I’ll probably tell you better,” Grant said with a laugh. “No, but it’s great. Obviously, my wife and my four kids are here. For my kids, it’s their first time in Hawaii, so getting a chance to enjoy this experience and obviously to come out and support our team, it’s great to have them here and get a chance to experience this tournament.”
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The Flyers added to the enjoyment with a runner-up finish, losing only to Kansas, 90-84 in overtime in the championship. That performance, coupled with victories against Georgia and Virginia Tech, impressed enough Associated Press top-25 voters that Dayton earned a No. 19 ranking this week.
Although that thrilling game against Kansas, which moved from No. 4 to No. 2 this week, will be what most coaches, players and fans remember from the week, Grant had another memorable personal moment before the games even began.
Grant’s youngest son, Makai, 14, has only been dunking for a couple of weeks, and Grant had not see him dunk in person. He finally got to see a dunk after a Dayton practice on Sunday at the Lahaina Civic Center.
“There were rumors going around that he could dunk,” Grant said.
“Coach Grant ran over and hugged him,” Watson said. “Coach Grant doesn’t show a ton of emotion, so it was cool to see that.”
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