Dayton Flyers: Ranking best freshmen in school history

Two current freshmen on track to deliver historic seasons

The emergence of Malachi Smith and DaRon Holmes II as the faces of the future for the Dayton Flyers have lifted hopes of the fans during another season stained by the pandemic.

Holmes II averaged 10.4 points in 13 non-conference games. Smith averaged 10.0 points, scoring five fewer points (130) than Holmes. Dayton has never had a pair of true freshmen average in double figures.

There’s a long way to go and no telling how many games each player will get to play thanks to COVID-19, which has wreaked havoc with the Atlantic 10 Conference schedule, but they are on their way to delivering two of the great freshman performances in school history. That’s a good sign because in general the greatest freshmen in school history also rank among the greatest players in school history.

Below a ranking of the 10 best true freshmen. This list doesn’t include many freshmen from the early decades of Dayton basketball who couldn’t play because the NCAA didn’t let freshmen play until the 1972-73 season.

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The list also doesn’t include players who sat out a season before making their college debuts. Obi Toppin, for instance, set the UD freshman record with 14.4 points per game in the 2018-19 season but got a year to prepare after sitting out as an academic redshirt. He also spent a year at a post-graduate school, so he was the age of a college junior by the time he played for Dayton in a game.

Keith Waleskowski averaged 11.1 points as a redshirt freshman in the 2000-01 season. Steve McElvene set a school record with 55 blocks as a redshirt freshman in the 2015-16 season.

Holmes II and Smith could join this list of true freshman.

1. Johnny Davis (1973-74): The 6-2 guard from Murray-Wright High School in Detroit averaged 14.3 points, 3.7 rebounds and 4.1 assists for a team that finished 20-9. The Flyers beat Cal State-Los Angeles in the NCAA tournament before losing 111-100 in triple overtime to UCLA.

Davis signed with Dayton in May 1973 after playing in the Midwestern All-Star Classic at Hara Arena in Dayton that April. He averaged 31 points per game as a senior.

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As a Dayton freshmen, Davis joined a team that finished 13-13 the previous season but returned two big scorers in Donald Smith (23.4) and Mike Sylvester (16.6). Davis won a starting job in the preseason, and coach Don Donoher looked forward to pairing him with Smith.

“Johnny and Donald work together beautifully,” Donoher said days before the season opener.

Davis played three seasons with the Flyer and ranks 16th in school history with 1,562 points. He averaged 12.9 points in a 10-year NBA career.

Credit: Walt Kline

Credit: Walt Kline

2. Jim Paxson (1975-76): The Alter High School graduate averaged 13.1 points, shooting 48.4 percent from the field, 3.7 assists and 4.7 rebounds in 27 games for a team that finished 14-13. Paxson’s most remarkable stat remains a UD record. He played 39.3 minutes per game or 1,061 out of a possible 1,080 minutes.

Paxson signed his letter of intent in May 1975. He picked Dayton over Kentucky, Tennessee, Holy Cross, Ohio State and others, deciding to go to the school where his dad starred in the 1950s.

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“Dad would have agreed if I had picked any of the others,” Paxson said in 1975. “But the truth is I never was close to go anywhere else.”

Paxson Sr. ranks 56th in school history with 956 points. His son ranks fifth with 1,945 points.

Dayton finished 10-16 the year before Paxson arrived. It was the program’s first losing season since 1947-48. With him joining a roster that already included Davis, Erv Giddings and Leighton Moulton, all of whom averaged in double figures, Dayton improved to 14-13.

Credit: David Jablonski - Staff Writer

Credit: David Jablonski - Staff Writer

3. Roosevelt Chapman (1980-81): Dayton’s all-time leading scorer (2,233 points) started his career by averaging 12.8 points, 5.8 rebounds and 3.2 assists in 29 games. He shot 47.5 percent from the field. He was the second-leading scorer behind junior Mike Kanieski (16.9). He averaged 30.3 minutes per game.

Chapman, of Westinghouse High School in Brooklyn, N.Y., committed to Dayton in May 1980 and signed in June. He ranked among the nation’s top-30 recruits and was considered the program’s biggest recruit since Paxson and the biggest out-of-state recruit since Davis. He picked Dayton over Michigan State, Georgetown, North Carolina State, Maryland, Providence and Louisville.

Chapman had an instant impact as a freshman, scoring eight points on 4-of-5 shooting in his first game against Rider and then scoring seven points in overtime in the next game, an 84-83 victory against San Francisco.

4. Mike Kanieski (1978-79): The 6-10 center from Midpark High School in Cleveland averaged 11.7 points. He set a UD freshman record with 8.7 rebounds per game, and that still stands. He also averaged 2.1 assists in 29 games. He shot 47.2 percent from the field. He played 33.4 minutes per game, the third-highest total in school history.

Dayton finished 19-10 his freshman season, which was Paxson’s senior season.

“You’d almost say from watching him play he’s a sophomore or junior,” junior guard Tim Pohlman said before the season. “He seems to understand the passing game really well.”

Kanieski finished his career with 1,642 points. He ranks 12th in school history.

5. Tony Stanley (1997-98): The 6-4 guard from Washington & Lee High School in Arlington, Va., averaged 13.1 points, 3.5 rebounds and 1.4 assists as a freshman. He started all 33 games. He shot 39.4 percent from the field.

Stanley picked Dayton over Minnesota, Penn State and Virginia Tech. He scored 16 points in his first game against Murray State. It was the first time in UD history a freshmen led the team in scoring in his first game. He scored in double figures in eight of the first 11 games.

“We thought Tony could be an outstanding player,” coach Oliver Purnell said in December 1997. “And he’s delivering.”

Stanley helped lead Dayton to an eight-win improvement in his first season. It was 13-14 the previous season and 21-12 in his freshman season. He ranks seven in school history with 1,835 points.

6. Jack Zimmerman (1976-77): Joining a roster that featured Paxson coming off his freshman season, the 6-3 guard from Alter averaged 11.0 points, 3.1 rebounds and 4.6 assists in 26 games. He played 35.5 minutes per game, the second most by a freshman in school history.

Zimmerman committed to UD in April 1976. That was 26 years after his dad, Jack Zimmerman Sr., finished his college career at Dayton. At that time in 1976, Zimmerman was the fifth Alter grad whose dad played at UD to pick the Flyers in a three-year stretch, following Joe Siggins, Bill Frericks, Doug Harris and Paxson.

7. Chip Hare (1991-92): The 6-10 forward from Massillon Perry High School averaged 11.1 points and 6.6 rebounds in 30 games as a freshman. Hare committed to Dayton in November 1990. He also considered Northwestern, Wake Forest and Ohio State. He was the third-ranked prospect in Ohio in the 1991 class.

Hare had 13 points and 10 rebounds in 20 minutes in his first game, a victory against Austin Peay. Dayton finished 15-15 that season.

Hare, now the athletic director at Piqua High School, ranks 27th in school history with 1,323 points.

8. Ryan Perryman (1994-95): The 6-7 forward from Oak Park, Mich., averaged 9.8 points and 8.0 rebounds as a freshman. He and Hare are the only freshmen in UD history to lead their teams in scoring.

Perryman started 26 games for a team that finished 7-20 in coach Oliver Purnell’s first season. No one else started more than 20 that season. He had 17 points and 15 rebounds in the season opener, a 91-82 victory against Howard.

Perryman ranks 20th in school history with 1,524 points and fourth in rebounds (1,156).

Credit: Ron Alvey

Credit: Ron Alvey

9. Brooks Hall (1999-2000): The Troy graduate Hall, a 6-6 forward, averaged 10.4 points and 5.8 rebounds. He set a UD freshman record that still stands by shooting 39.4 percent (67 of 170) from 3-point range.

Hall started 23 of 31 games for a team that finished 22-9 and ended the program’s 10-year NCAA tournament drought. He ranked third on the team in scoring behind Stanley, a junior, and Mark Ashman, a senior.

“Brooks makes everybody better when he’s out there,” Ashman said in March 2000. “He’s a total team player. He hits the open guy. That’s what we need.”

Hall ranks 25th in school history with 1,404 points and third in 3-pointers made (285).

10. Jalen Crutcher (2017-18): The 6-1 guard from Ridgeway High School in Memphis won the starting point guard spot on a young team seven games into his freshman season. He averaged 9.2 points and 4.4 assists in 31.2 minutes per game.

Crutcher ranks 16th in school history with 1,593 points, second in assists (584) and fourth in 3-pointers made (242).

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