Dayton Flyers look back on the first dunks of their lives

Players give Enoch Cheeks their vote as best dunker on the roster

There’s not much debate on who the best dunker on the Dayton Flyers roster is in the 2023-24 season. DaRon Holmes II will lead the teams in dunks and may rank among the national leaders as he did last year, but Enoch Cheeks gets the most votes with Zimi Nwokeji also in the conversation.

“It’s hard to go against Deuce,” walk-on guard Will Maxwell said, “but I like Enoch.”

“I have to go with Cheeks because of the stuff he does in practice,” walk-on forward Atticus Schuler said.

Cheeks sides with his teammates.

“Oh, definitely me,” he said in October. “You’re going to see it in games. I’m not going to say too much, but I’m trying to be in a category with Toumani (Camara) and Obi (Toppin) I’ll bring something flashy on the fast breaks.”

Holmes dunked eighth times in the first five games this season, putting him behind the pace he set last season when he ranked second in the country with 89 dunks. He dunked 82 times as a freshman. He now has 179 in his career.

Through the first five games, Holmes was closing in on Obi Toppin’s school record for career dunks. Toppin dunked 191 times in two seasons. He has the quantity but concedes Cheeks and Nwokeji have more quality dunks.

“I’ll definitely dunk the ball, but in terms of creativeness, it’s one of those two,” Holmes said.

Everyone on the team has dunked before, and they all remember their first dunk. It’s a lightning bolt moment that sticks with players forever. Here’s what the 18 players on the roster had to say about their first dunk memories.

Marvel Allen: “My first dunk was in sixth grade. It was at practice. I could already grab the rim, so I just tried it. I was able to palm the ball at an early age. So I palmed it and went up and it went in. I ran around the gym for probably five minutes. I got it on video, too.”

Javon Bennett: “It was my junior year of high school, but it wasn’t in an official practice or a game. My first dunk in live action was here (at Dayton) in the summer. (People) were shocked it even happened. They thought I was going to go up for a regular layup because that’s what I usually do, but I’m like, ‘I’m going to try to dunk it.’ I had been trying to do it in a game for a little while, but that was the first one that actually went in.”

Koby Brea: “It was in a layup line. I was still playing JV. I was 15.”

Cheeks: “I was 14, turning 15, and I think it was in a recreational summer game. I was so surprised. Everybody was shocked.”

Evan Dickey: “Mine first in-game dunk was during my sophomore year against Fenwick. I got a steal across the top and dunked on the fast break. My first dunk ever was freshman year. We were at practice around Christmas time. It was from the right side.”

Kobe Elvis: “In high school, I got my friend to throw me a lob up by the rim, and I ran up and dunked it. It was probably around 10th grade.”

Makai Grant: “My freshman year (at Chaminade-Julienne), at the beginning of practice, we were just shooting around. One of my teammates was trying to dunk on the side hoop. He kept missing. He was jumping too close to the basket. I said, ‘You have to jump further away.’ And I tried it. I got it. I was like, ‘Holy crap.’”

Holmes: “I think it was like eighth grade summer in AAU, going into high school. That was my first official dunk. It was a big deal.”

Isaac Jack: “I had a late start (in basketball), so I guess my dunk came pretty late. I think it was ninth grade. We went to an away game, and for some reason, we felt the hoops were shorter. Whenever we were on the one side warming up, I could dunk on one side. I thought if I could dunk on there, I could dunk on the other because it was an inch difference at most.”

Will Maxwell: “At the end of eighth grade, I was shooting around in the summer and asked my friend if he would record me, and I got a dunk. It was in practice.”

C.J. Napier: “I had one in a game my junior year. In practice, I had one sophomore year. I’n not the most athletic guy, so anytime I can get up, it’s good.”

Nwokeji: “It was in middle school, my seventh-grade year. It was in PE class.”

Petras Padegimas: “I think I just turned 13. It was like a week after my 13th birthday, I was at one of those summer camps, and I just went up to try to dunk. I got it, so I surprised myself.”

Nate Santos: “My first memory of dunking was in eighth grade in gym class. I think we had some time to mess around. We were shooting around, and I felt particularly bouncy on that day.”

Atticus Schuler: “I was a freshman in high school. I was a little bit of a late bloomer. But it was pretty cool first getting up on that rim. It was after practice.”

Jaiun Simon: “It was after the championship game in eighth grade. There were good vibes, and we were having fun, and I just went and dunked it.”

Malachi Smith: “I was in high school, working with my dad. He was like, ‘Yo, jump.’ I was like, ‘I’m scared.’ Then I did it. It was just that simple.”

Brady Uhl: “My first dunk was during my sophomore year at Belmont High School during warmups. For me, it was a big deal. Everyone else was already dunking.”

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