Many people watching Dayton Flyers guard Rodney Chatman play for the first time Saturday at UD Arena may have had the same question: How long is he going to have to wear the protective mask?
After scoring 12 points on 4-of-5 shooting from 3-point range in 16 minutes in a 93-60 victory against Cedarville University, Chatman answered that question.
“It’s a family decision,” Chatman said. “I don’t know. I’ve got to go to the doctor Nov. 7. We’ll talk about it then.”
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Chatman, a 6-foot-1 redshirt junior, took an elbow to the eye in practice in late June and suffered a fractured eye socket.
“It was hard because it was the first day back on campus,” Chatman said. “I just had to believe and trust in Mike (Mulcahey), the trainer. I believed in him I would get back, and now I’m here.”
Chatman missed most of the summer practices in July. That couldn’t have been easy for a player who sat out the previous season after transferring from Chattanooga.
“I’m the type of guy who thinks everything happens for a reason,” Chatman said. “I didn’t get down. I stayed the course. I had good support from my coaches, my teammates and my family, so that helped me push through it.”
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It took about a week for Chatman to get used to wearing the mask in practice. At first, he couldn’t breathe, so he had to adjust the fit.
“I’m used to it now,” he said. “It’s like nothing’s there.”
Chatman started the exhibition game along with another transfer, forward Chase Johnson, and three returning starters: Jalen Crutcher, Obi Toppin and Ryan Mikesell. Chatman had three assists, two steals and two rebounds.
“I thought Rodney did a good job,” Dayton coach Anthony Grant said. “I think it starts for us on the defensive end. He was able to put pressure on the ball, able to disrupt some things they were trying to do. I thought that’s where it started. I thought all our guys really understood what this was. It’s an exhibition game. It’s our first opportunity to get out in front of a crowd. A lot of these guys that were here last year didn’t get a chance to play in front of Dayton fans. The experience of getting out in front of our fans was a good step in the right direction, but it’s one step. It’s an exhibition game.”
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Chatman had not played a college basketball game in front of fans since March 3, 2018, when he scored nine points in 17 minutes in a 77-59 loss to East Tennessee State in the Southern Conference tournament. It was his second game back after returning from an ankle injury that kept him out of action in the last half of February.
The largest crowd Chatman played in front of during his sophomore season was 6,149. Dayton had a crowd of 13,207 for the exhibition game and likely will sell out its season opener Saturday against Indiana State. The atmosphere won’t bother Chatman.
“I’m the type of guy who doesn’t get nervous,” he said. “I’m level-headed. The fans are great. I love them. I appreciate them. It’s a privilege to have them here.”
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