Malachi Smith first visited the University of Dayton in April of 2017. His stepdad, Elliot Rosado, shared a video on Instagram at that time of Malachi and his brother Scoochie Smith, who had just finished his senior season, practicing 3-pointers on the practice court at the Cronin Center.
Malachi saw Scoochie play often during his four seasons with the Dayton Flyers but always on the road on the east coast, near their hometown, The Bronx, N.Y., and even once in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Malachi didn’t step inside UD Arena when he visited his brother because it was the offseason. NCAA restrictions during the pandemic prevented him from visiting campus during the recruiting process.
On Saturday, when Malachi arrived on UD campus to start his college basketball career, he finally saw the court he’ll call home for the first time.
“When we talked into the arena, me and my wife looked at each other like, ‘This is an NBA arena,’” Rosado said.
Smith, a 6-foot guard who was the first player from the 2021 class to commit to Dayton, will be one of four freshmen on Dayton’s 2021-22 roster. All four are now on campus and will participate in Dayton’s eight-week summer practice session.
Lynn Greer III, a 6-3 guard from Philadelphia, arrived Friday, Rosado said. Kaleb Washington, a 6-7 forward from Georgia, arrived Monday. DaRon Holmes, a 6-8 forward, flew to Ohio from Arizona on Tuesday, according to a photo his dad DaRon Holmes Sr. shared on Twitter.
Dayton’s 2021 recruiting class ranked 21st in the nation, according to Rivals.com, and 22nd, according to 247Sports.com.
The Dayton coaches rolled out the red carpet for the recruits. They showed Smith where his locker will be at UD Arena. They took the family around campus on a golf cart. They even presented a blown-up photo of Scoochie to Sharika, the mother of a former and future Flyer. Scoochie himself, who played last season in Serbia, arrived on campus for a visit this week.
As exciting as it was taking Malachi to campus and getting the tour he would have received as a recruit, it was emotional for his family, which left for the drive home to New York City at 6 a.m. Monday after saying goodbye the previous night. Rosado filmed Malachi walking away to the building where the players live on campus.
“People have been asking how I feel,” said Rosado, who met Sharika when Malachi was 2 and has been a part of his life ever since, “and I’m like, ‘We’ve been traveling for AAU basketball since like the second grade. This basketball trip here is the first trip he doesn’t come back home for us. The car’s kind of quiet.’”
Malachi met Dayton head coach Anthony Grant in 2017 when he visited campus and saw him again in September of 2019 at his high school, St. Raymond School for the Boys in the Bronx, when Dayton first offered him a scholarship. The college basketball world shut down six months later. Recruiting was a virtual experience from March of 2020 until Tuesday, the first day the NCAA lifted restrictions, allowing in-person visits to begin again and coaches to begin traveling to see players.
The pandemic robbed Malachi of a chance to finish his junior season and cost him his senior season as well. New York’s catholic schools decided not to play a full season but to have a spring tournament. Smith did not play in the tournament. He fell about 250 points of reaching the 1,000-point milestone.
“My wife and I sat him down,” Rosado said, “and I told him, ‘You playing against high school kids right now doesn’t do anything for you or Dayton. You’ve got to get ready to play against college guys. So let’s stay in the gym and work with some of these older guys.’”
Malachi worked with former college coach Emmanuel “Book” Richardson at the Gauchos Gym in the Bronx with players such as former Kentucky star Doron Lamb.
“They bully him around a little bit,” Rosado said, “but it helps.”