Dayton starts practice for 2023-24 season on Thursday

Anthony Grant gives updates two Flyers recovering from offseason surgeries

The Dayton Flyers start official preseason practices for the 2023-24 season on Thursday. For coach Anthony Grant, who’s entering his seventh season, it’s the next step on a long road that started in March when his roster looked much different.

“It’s been a busy offseason,” Grant told local media on Wednesday in an interview outside the coaches’ offices at the Cronin Center. “We took the overseas trip, and that was good for our guys. With so many new faces, just getting the chance to give the guys a chance to get to know each other better, it served that purpose. Now we’re in Week 6 since the semester started. We’re getting everybody acclimated to campus and the normal ins and outs of being a college student and then getting prepared for the season. We’re at that next phase right now, where we start the 20-hour week and we get 30 days of practice over the next 42 days before we play our first game. So, yeah, we’re looking forward to it.”

The most important question at this time of the year — or any time — is about the health of the team. Grant provided updates on Koby Brea and Malachi Smith, two returning guards who underwent surgeries in the spring.

Brea had rods inserted into both of his legs to address stress fractures he dealt with in his tibias over the last year. That surgery took place April 6.

“(Brea) hasn’t been back at practice,” Grant said. “Hopefully, this week, we get him back a little bit. When you have major surgery the way that he did, we want to make sure that we’re giving him the proper time to make sure he’s ready to go, but he’s progressing. We hope to have him back soon.”

Smith, who underwent reconstruction surgeries on his right ankle and then his left 10 weeks apart in April and May, has been shown practicing at full speed in several videos shared by the official Dayton basketball accounts.

“We’ve had six weeks or five weeks of workouts, and Mali’s probably got a total of about a week with us,” Grant said. “When you talk about surgery on both ankles, we want to make sure that he’s fully healed and where he needs to be. No setbacks with him, so we like the way he’s progressing.”

Dayton is a unanimous choice to win the Atlantic 10 Conference regular-season championship, according to the preseason publications that predict all the conference races. The Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook, The Almanac and the Lindy’s College Basketball Preview all picked the Flyers.

DaRon Holmes II, one of five returning players on a roster with 12 scholarship players, is also getting as much preseason hype as any recent Flyer. He’s been labeled a potential All-American and a favorite to win the A-10 Player of the Year Award.

“In my opinion, he’s one of the best players in the country,” Grant said. “So anytime you get a chance to have that on your roster, naturally, that’s going to help. I think his experience, with so many new faces, being able to be a voice that can lead on a daily basis and tell the guys what to expect, he’s got a strong desire to grow in that are. So aside from what he does as a basketball player, his presence with the experience that he’s gotten being a third-year guy has proven to be really valuable for us.”

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