The Dayton Flyers gathered around Archie Miller at the center of the practice court at the Cronin Center on Monday.
“We’re going to go hard today,” Miller said. “We’re going to go really hard.”
With that, Miller’s sixth season as Dayton coach began. The first official practice will lead to the Red and Blue Game on Oct. 22 and then an exhibition against Findlay on Nov. 6 and the regular-season opener against Austin Peay on Nov. 11. The long road to March continues from there.
“It’s been a long offseason for us,” point guard Scoochie Smith said. “We’ve been working hard. We’re ready to get back in tune with the season.”
The Flyers are coming off one of the best three-year stretches in school history, reaching the NCAA Tournament each season, a feat unmatched by the program since the 1960s, and winning 78 games.
Dayton returns four senior starters — guards Smith, Charles Cooke and Kyle Davis and forward Kendall Pollard — who could leave as the winningest class in school history. The 2011 class, starring Chris Wright, won 97 games.
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“I think the biggest thing for those guys is to enjoy it, to have a lot of fun as seniors, to not put pressure on yourself to do specific things,” Miller said. “If you’re always about specific things in your career, it can bring a lot of added pressure, so I want those guys to go out and play. I want them to compete. I want those guys to be the face of our program. If they do that, good things will happen.
“The years go fast. I think those guys should be remembered as a group of people who have really resurged not only a program, but a university, a community, a fan base. They’ve created a lot of great memories. There will be special things next to their names if they’re able to do things as a team this season. That’s the biggest thing.”
The four seniors combined to average 45.8 points per game last season. Cooke led the team with 15.5 points per game. He made the All-Atlantic 10 first team and the all-defensive team with 37 blocks. He’ll be a top contender for A-10 player of the year as a senior.
Smith averaged 4.3 assists in his second season as the starting point guard. Smith also led the team with 42 steals, and Davis trailed him by one.
Pollard battled injuries for the second half of last season but had a few key games late to help the team reach the NCAA Tournament. His health remains one of the question marks heading into the new season, and he’s only participating in individual workouts at this point.
All the seniors have goals for their last ride as Flyers.
“We’ve been gearing up all this summer to get prepared for this last season, this last run,” Davis said. “All of us want to leave with our legacy high up there and with smiles on our face.”
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