Dayton Flyers: Grant wants veterans to help freshmen develop

Dayton players (left to right) Jeremiah Bonsu, Trey Landers, Josh Cunningham, Joey Gruden and John Crosby react on the bench to a made free throw in overtime against Davidson on Friday, Feb. 24, 2017, at Belk Arena in Davidson, N.C. David Jablonski/Staff
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Dayton players (left to right) Jeremiah Bonsu, Trey Landers, Josh Cunningham, Joey Gruden and John Crosby react on the bench to a made free throw in overtime against Davidson on Friday, Feb. 24, 2017, at Belk Arena in Davidson, N.C. David Jablonski/Staff

UD will have one senior in 2017-18 season

The transformation of UD Arena is well underway. The latest photos of the three-year renovation project make the home of the Dayton Flyers look like the set of a post-apocalyptic zombie movie. There are no seats, no floor and, of course, no fans.

Meanwhile, across the Great Miami River, the transformation of the Dayton men’s basketball program under new coach Anthony Grant continues. The Flyers lost four pillars of the program in Scoochie Smith, Charles Cooke, Kendall Pollard and Kyle Davis. They return one starter, forward Xeyrius Williams, and another player who would have started all season if not for an injury, Josh Cunningham.

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Dayton will have one senior, guard Darrell Davis, five juniors, one of whom, Ryan Mikesell, will sit out the season as a medical redshirt, a sophomore, a redshirt freshman and five true freshmen. Grant provided updates on the returning players Thursday.

Williams: The 6-foot-8 junior forward from Wayne High School was the team's most improved player last season, averaging 8.2 points and 4.8 rebounds. He shot 41.5 percent from 3-point range (39 of 94).

“I’ve been really impressed with his consistency and his willingness to work,” Grant said. “He’s really embraced everything we’ve done in terms of development. X is a guy who over his two-year career, from what I can tell, has just continued to improve. He’s going to have to expand his role, expand his game. He sees that. He’s excited about that.”

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Grant sees Williams as a player who can become an all-conference level performer.

“That’s our hope for him,” Grant said. “I’d like to see him continue to work on improving his body and getting stronger. His skill set allows him to create for himself offensively. Defensively, he has a lot of versatility in terms of being able to guard multiple positions.”

Cunningham: The 6-7 redshirt junior from Chicago enters his second season on the court for the Flyers. He tore a ligament in his left ankle in the second game last season at Alabama on Nov. 15 and returned to action on Feb. 10. He averaged 6.3 points and 2.9 rebounds in 11 games.

“He’s another guy who has impressed me with his work ethic and maturity,” Grant said. “He’s probably a more vocal guy than X. He was a captain. That’s impressive that he’d be considered, especially with that class that just left with the success they had. With the injury he sustained, most of this offseason has been, ‘Let’s get your body right. Let’s get your skill set to where you can do the things we think you’re capable of doing from an offensive standpoint.’ He’s got a chance to be another guy who’s consistent for us in terms of what he brings scoring the basketball and defending multiple positions. He brings great energy to our team.”

Davis: The 6-5 senior guard spent the first summer session at home in Detroit. He averaged 5.5 points, 1.9 rebounds and 1.2 assists last season. His 3-point shooting percentage improved from 29.1 percent to 38.5 percent. However, his 2-point percentage dropped from 48.6 to 23.8.

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"From what I've gathered, he's really made strides as a defender over the course of the last season or two," Grant said. "As a senior, you want to see consistency. You want to see ownership, so to speak. 'This is my senior year. This is really going to be important to me.' You want the younger guys to feel a sense of responsibility to make sure we send our senior out the right way. The opportunity is there for him to really try to bond with the younger guys and embrace his last go-round."

John Crosby: The 6-2 junior guard from Baltimore averaged 2.8 points, 1.9 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game. Grant said Crosby has put his spring experiences — he decided to transfer and then changed his mind — behind him.

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“He went home for the first summer session and has been back for two weeks,” Grant said. “He’s been good. He looks good physically. He’s in a good place mentally. He’s just moving forward. He’s excited about the opportunity. He’s always been great with his teammates. It’ll be important for our veteran crew to really embrace bringing our freshmen along, especially this summer. Those veterans will be the first to tell you we need those freshmen. John’s always been a vocal guy. I think he’ll play a big part in that.”

Sam Miller: The 6-9 junior forward from Arlington, Va., broke his ankle April 1 and is on track to be 100 percent by the time fall practices start. Miller averaged 4.5 points and 2.3 rebounds.

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“He’s doing really well,” Grant said. “He’s on the court. We started off with him doing stationary shooting three weeks ago. We graduated now to where he’s able to take jump shots. He’s moving on the court. He’s progressing really, really well. I think Mike (Mulcahey), our trainer, feels like he’s on course, if not ahead of course, in terms of him being able to get back and be ready to go sometime in September.”

Mikesell: The 6-7 junior forward from St. Henry had surgery on both hips to correct impingements. He will sit out the season. Grant plans for Mikesell to remain a big part of the team.

“He’s at every workout,” Grant said. “He spends time in the weight room even though he’s not able to do that. Pretty soon he’ll be cleared to do some stuff in the weight room. He’s got a great attitude and great approach to this process just in terms of understanding it’s one day at a time, one step at a time. I think he’s looking forward to what comes next. He’s on crutches. He’s already talking about in a week he’ll be off the crutches and allowed to do some stuff in the weight room. We’ll have him involved from a leadership standpoint, and there will always be something he can help us with in terms of practice or games or whatever.”

Trey Landers: The 6-4 sophomore guard from Wayne saw limited action in nine games. He averaged 3.0 points and 1.9 rebounds. He has fully recovered from offseason hernia surgery and has been on campus for both summer sessions.

“The biggest thing with Trey is consistency,” Grant said. “We don’t need him to be the best player. We need him to be consistent. Physically, you look at his body and the tools he has, he’s got to be able to carve out a niche for himself.”

Kostas Antetokounmpo: The 6-10 redshirt freshman from Dominican High School in Milwaukee is spending the second summer session in his native Greece training with the under-20 national team. He missed some practice time at Dayton in June because he had his wisdom teeth removed.

“We probably had four or five sessions with him,” Grant said. “You could see the potential in him. Physically, you want to see him continue to develop, but you can’t teach (6-10) and the way he moves and jumps. He’s a really good teammate. He really wants to be a good player. He wants the team to do well. Those are all good places to start. This is a huge summer for him. When you think about it, the last time he played organized basketball was two years ago. You want to see him put it all together. He’s got a lot of potential.”