Trey Landers watched the entire NBA Draft in June, hoping to see his friend and former teammate, Kostas Antetokounmpo, get selected at some point.
When the Dallas Mavericks drafted Antetokounmpo with the 60th and final pick, Landers said, “I was calling him, and he was calling me at the same time. He was excited, but he was more in shock than anything.”
The Wayne grad Landers and Antetokounmpo arrived on campus a couple months apart. They were the only members of the 2016 Dayton Flyers recruiting class. They had a close bond because of that and because Landers played only 52 minutes as a freshman and Antetokounmpo sat out the entire season as a NCAA partial qualifier.
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Antetokounmpo was one of five players to leave the program after the 2017-18 season.
“He loved it here,” Landers said. “He was just like, ‘I’m thinking of getting out of here.’ I was like, ‘I wish you the best. Just stay focused.’”
Landers, a 6-foot-5 guard, moves ahead with his college career as one of Dayton’s four returning starters in the 2018-19 season. He had a breakout season as a sophomore, starting 29 games and averaging 11.3 points, 5.6 rebounds and 1.8 assists. One of the nation’s most efficient scorers, Landers ranked 34th in the country in 2-point field-goal percentage (107 of 162, 66.0). He was a dependable 3-point shooter as well, making 35.2 percent of his attempts (19 of 54).
Entering his junior season, Landers wants to improve his one-on-one moves off of ball screens, his outside shooting and his ball-handling, but his game isn’t his greatest focus.
“I’m not really focused on myself,” Landers said. “I’m focused on our team. Last year, we were one of the worst defensive teams in the country, so we’re just trying to focus on our defense. The offensive stuff will come. I’m not worried about that. We’ve got Jalen (Crutcher) and Obi (Toppin) and all those younger guys, and we’re just trying to get them locked in — as they are and as they have been — and bought into what we’ve got going on and where we’re trying to get to.”
Landers was a first-year starter last year along with Jalen Crutcher and another freshman guard, Jordan Davis. He said both players look more relaxed and mature as they enter their sophomore seasons.
“Jalen kind of lets the game come to him,” Landers said. “He’s looking much better. JD’s getting much better defensively. He’s always had that (confidence), that he can play. I told him he has to have a little bit more edge to himself this year and show people he’s here. He just has to get a little more grit to himself, and we talk to him about that all the time.”
Dayton finished 14-17 last season, ending a streak of two straight Atlantic 10 Conference regular-season championships and four straight NCAA tournament berths. Starting new streaks is the goal, and Landers likes the attitude the team has shown in the offseason.
“We’ve just got much more of a sense of urgency, an intensity,” Landers said. “I feel once you’re more together off the court, it only helps you more on the court. We’re doing a lot more stuff together as far as going out to eat, going to movies, swimming. We’re more of a team.”