Dayton Flyers seniors finally get to play in Chicago

Dayton guard Kyle Davis, right, and Kendall Pollard celebrate after Davis scored and was fouled in the second half against Massachusetts on Thursday, Jan. 29, 2015, at Mullins Center in Amherst, Mass. David Jablonski/Staff

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Dayton guard Kyle Davis, right, and Kendall Pollard celebrate after Davis scored and was fouled in the second half against Massachusetts on Thursday, Jan. 29, 2015, at Mullins Center in Amherst, Mass. David Jablonski/Staff

Davis, Pollard looking forward to first game at United Center

Even before they ever played a game for the Dayton Flyers, Kendall Pollard and Kyle Davis had one question for coach Archie Miller.

“Will we ever play in Chicago?” they asked.

The answer was usually the same. The teams in Chicago didn’t want to play the Flyers. For three seasons, as Pollard and Davis built careers that will go down in the history books, they kept wondering if they would ever to get a chance to play in their hometown. This weekend, it will finally happen for the two seniors.

Dayton (7-2) plays Northwestern (8-2) at 7 p.m. Saturday at the United Center in the first game of the Chicago Legends event. BYU plays Illinois in the second game at 9:30 p.m.

“We finally got a game on a big stage,” Pollard said Thursday. “I get to see some of my friends from Illinois play. It’ll be exciting. I can’t wait.”

“It’s a great opportunity to get back to my hometown,” Davis said, “and to play in front of fans from my hometown and also from UD.”

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Dayton has won five games in a row. Northwestern won its fifth straight game Wednesday, beating Chicago State 68-64. This is the fourth season for Northwestern coach Chris Collins. The Wildcats have improved their win total each season: from 14-19 to 15-17 to 20-12 last season.

“It’s an exciting trip,” Dayton coach Archie Miller said. “We have some guys who we have recruited out of Chicago who have done very well for us. They get a chance to go home and play in front of a lot of people. That’s one thing that’s very exciting. To be on that stage at the United Center is going to be a great atmosphere. I would expect our crowd to be second to none. We’ve been waiting four or five years to get a game up there. Northwestern presents a lot of challenges. They’re having a terrific season. They’re a very tough-minded group that’s determined to have a great season. They’re very difficult to guard, and they’re going to be very difficult to score on.”

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

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Dayton Flyers play Northwestern at 7 p.m. Friday.

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

This will be Dayton’s first game in the Chicago area since it beat No. 15 Marquette in the finals of the Chicago Invitational Challenge in Hoffman Estates, Ill., in 2008. Dayton hasn’t played in the city of Chicago since Jan. 7, 1989, when it beat Loyola 89-80 at the International Amphitheater. UD has never played at the United Center.

This will be the first game at the United Center for Pollard and Davis. It would have also been the first for injured sophomore forward Josh Cunningham, the team’s other Chicago native. None of the three played at the arena in their high school careers. Pollard has seen many Chicago Bulls games there. Davis has never been in the building, though he has been outside the arena to see the Michael Jordan statue.

The United Center is, in a lot of ways, the house that Jordan built. It opened in 1994, right in between two three-year runs of NBA championships for Jordan and the Bulls.

Davis and Pollard were born too late to appreciate the Jordan years. In fact, they were born one day apart in Chicago in 1995. Pollard was born on Jan. 6, a day the Bulls lost 108-101 to the Seattle Supersonics at the United Center. Ironically, Davis was born the next day.

“I don’t have too many memories of Jordan,” Davis said. “But Michael Jordan left a mark on the city. He opened the door for a lot of basketball players from Chicago.”

Davis and Pollard grew up in the age of Derrick Rose, the former Bulls star who has since moved on to the New York Knicks. While Rose was one of Pollard’s favorites, his favorite player as a youngster was Kobe Bryant.

“My auntie was the biggest Michael Jordan fan, so she really hated Kobe,” Pollard said. “That’s how I would always hear about (Jordan).”

Pollard and Davis could serve as tour guides for the Dayton fans heading to Chicago. They would both recommend eating pizza at Giordano’s or hot dogs at Portillo’s. Davis also threw in Harold’s Chicken Shack as another option.

Pollard has spent plenty of time downtown, shopping and enjoying the sites. Nothing will compare to playing where the Bulls play.

“Just being in the United Center period, seeing all the retired jerseys and banners,” Pollard said. “It’s an amazing city. People who haven’t been would never understand.”


Dayton vs. Northwestern in Chicago, 7 p.m., Big Ten Network, FM 95.7, AM 1290 WHIO

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