Dayton Flyers: Recruiting challenging during coronavirus pandemic

Dayton’s Anthony Grant talks to the crowd after a victory against George Washington on March 7, 2020, at UD Arena. David Jablonski/Staff
Dayton’s Anthony Grant talks to the crowd after a victory against George Washington on March 7, 2020, at UD Arena. David Jablonski/Staff

Anthony Grant: ‘You’re doing everything through Zoom’

Spring is always an important time in college basketball recruiting. This spring is no different in that way but totally different in every other way because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Recruits can’t visit schools. Coaches can’t visit recruits or watch them play. The Dayton Flyers have tried to improve their roster for the coming season and future seasons in this unique time.

“You’re doing everything through Zoom,” Dayton coach Anthony Grant said Wednesday, “and trying to communicate and give guys an idea and a picture of who you are and what you have. We’ve got a couple spots open for this coming season. We’re still actively recruiting, and we’re also trying to keep tabs on some of the younger guys as well.”

» SCHEDULING NEWS: Dayton to play in Hoopsgiving event

Coaches have kept a close eye on the transfer portal, which had 867 players in it at last count, according to the list at VerbalCommits.com.

“With the pandemic and guys not being able to get on campus and you’re not able to meet guys face to face, it makes it difficult,” Grant said . “You’re also seeing a lot of guys making decisions, and it’s happening relatively quickly. We’ve had our share of guys that we’ve tried to be involved with. Obviously, at this point, none of them have decided on Dayton. We remain active. We’re still involved with some guys we feel if we get will make a huge impact on our team. We’re still trying to figure it out.”

Dayton loses two seniors, Ryan Mikesell and Trey Landers, from the team that finished 29-2 last season. It also loses Obi Toppin, who declared for the NBA Draft in March and is expected to be a lottery pick.

Two other players, guards Jalen Crutcher and Ibi Watson, also declared for the draft while maintaining their eligibility. The NBA Draft combine and lottery, which were scheduled to take place later this month, have been indefinitely postponed, while the draft remains scheduled for June 25, though ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported May 1 it may be just a matter of time before it is also postponed.

» FOOTBALL: UD announces 45-man recruiting class

It’s not known what that would mean for Crutcher and Watson, who at the moment have until June 15 to pull their names from the draft if they want to return to school. Grant met with each of the players after the season and encouraged Crutcher and Watson to declare for the draft.

“Obviously in Obi’s situation, we knew he would have the opportunity to be a lottery pick,” Grant said. “Him declaring was pretty much a foregone conclusion. In terms of Jalen and Ibi, I thought it would be good for those guys to explore that process and get some experience and see where they are. Obviously, it’s a different process this summer because of the pandemic. Those opportunities to get in front of teams and to work out, as of right now, we don’t know if those opportunities will be there. We’ll just have to wait and see how the process goes. Those guys have goals and aspirations to have those opportunities one day, so I think it’s good to be able to see where they stand.”

Assuming Crutcher and Watson return, Dayton has two or three scholarships open. One spot could be filled by Chase Johnson, who medically withdrew from school in January and remains on the roster. Grant was asked if there’s a chance Johnson returns to the program.

“I think there’s always the possibility,” Grant said, “but I’d say right now it’s premature to speculate in terms of saying I know what’s going to happen going forward.”