The Dayton Flyers will have 13 scholarship players on the bench the rest of the season. Only eight of them can play. One, Jhery Matos, will miss the rest of the season after undergoing foot surgery. Four will form one of the best scout teams in college basketball.
Florida transfer Chase Johnson, a 6-foot-9 forward, arrived on campus Saturday and sat next to Michigan transfer Ibi Watson (6-5 junior guard), Chattanooga transfer Rodney Chatman (6-1 guard) and Nebraska transfer Jordy Tshimanga (6-11 center) during a 72-67 victory Sunday against Massachusetts at UD Arena.
Johnson won’t practice right away. Dayton coach Anthony Grant said, “He’s got some stuff he’s got to do to get cleared.” But Grant expects him to practice at some point.
“I think our preparation with those guys and our walk-ons, it’s a huge part of helping us be successful,” Grant said. “If we can add Chase to that mix and help us in terms of putting this team in position to continue to get better — because I think our team has room to grow and mature — that can only help.”
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The other transfers, who like Johnson will debut for UD in the 2019-20 season, have been with the team all season. Here are Grant’s latest comments on their development during their year off the court.
• Watson: “Ibi’s been a joy to coach. He’s helped tremendously just with the maturity of our team, having a young team. For what he experienced at Michigan, his work ethic, his talent, I think it’s made us better. I think it’s helped our current team. Then, individually, Ibi’s a guy that loves the gym. He’s constantly in here working on his game. He wants to be a really good player. I’ve been really happy with his maturity and the way he works.”
• Chatman: “For Rodney, he’s a guy I think defensively is one of the elite guys for what he brings. He’s got great speed, great toughness, so I think it’s been great for our guys — for Jalen (Crutcher), for Jordan (Davis), for Dwayne (Cohill) — going against him, playing with him, learning from him in terms of whether it be playing in pick and roll or guarding pick and rolls or just the game itself. Chat is a guy that’s on the quiet side, but is a guy that has bonded really well with his teammates on and off the floor. He’s another guy just with learning the system, the style of play. He’s a relationship kid. It’s been a great transition for him as well.”
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• Tshimanga: “Jordy when he first came it probably took a couple of months before he was actually able to get on the floor, just some issues he was dealing with with his knees. Just trying to get his body where it needed to be. Another guy who has worked extremely hard. I think he’s in a really good place right now mentally and physically. He has just really benefited all our front-court guys in terms of what he brings every single day with his size and physicality. Another guy who has taken advantage of this year to get better and continue to work and grow his game.”
“Donnie’s from West Virginia,” Grant said, “so a lot of the people around Chase, Donnie is familiar with, so we put some things together and extended an offer for him to come to our game. He and his mom and dad were able to make it up to the game, and we were able to get him back later on that week for an official visit.”
Around the A-10: Three teams have risen to the top of the Atlantic 10 standings in what everyone expects to be wide-open race.
Dayton, Saint Louis and Davidson each won their first three games, though only Davidson has beaten an expected contender. The Wildcats rallied to beat Virginia Commonwealth 64-57 on Saturday in North Carolina.
The Flyers (11-5 overall) secured their sixth 3-0 start in 24 seasons in the A-10 and the third in the last five seasons by beating Massachusetts. Dayton has scored 72 points in each of its conference wins.
Looking ahead: Dayton plays at VCU in Richmond, Va., at 8 p.m. Wednesday. At No. 57, VCU (11-5, 2-1) is the highest-ranked A-10 team in the Ken Pomeroy ratings. Dayton ranks second among A-10 teams at No. 70.
The Flyers lost 88-84 in overtime last season at VCU’s Siegel Center and are 1-3 at the arena since VCU joined the conference in the 2012-13 season.