Dayton Flyers guard Elijah Weaver wore a big smile throughout his first Zoom interview with local media Monday. That’s been his default look since Dec. 19 when he learned he would get play this season and not have to watch from the bench as a transfer.
“I don’t know if I can put it into words,” Weaver said. “I’m sure you guys can tell. I’ve been all smiles ever since I’ve been able to play. I really can’t put it into words, but I’m really excited and I think you guys will be able to see that through the way I play.”
Weaver, a 6-foot-6 guard who played the last two seasons at Southern California, made his Dayton debut in a 65-62 victory against Mississippi at UD Arena. He had one rebound and an assist in nine minutes.
That was Dayton’s last non-conference game. Coach Anthony Grant wanted the players to be able to visit their families for Christmas, so UD chose not to schedule another game.
The Flyers (4-1) returned to campus Saturday and to practice on Sunday. Players had to pass COVID-19 tests before practicing, and they are being tested daily in advance of the 7 p.m. Wednesday Atlantic 10 Conference opener against La Salle (3-5) at UD Arena.
For Weaver, who’s from Cocoa, Fla., the holiday break was much appreciated. He said he got to see his mom, Taucia Brown, who he hadn’t seen in a while.
“I definitely needed that time,” Weaver said. “I feel refreshed. That break just helped reset everything. I came back with a different focus. My body feels better.”
The break followed a tumultuous couple of weeks for Weaver. While the NCAA granted blanket waivers to all transfers on Dec. 16, he didn’t find out until three days later he had been cleared to play. The news came hours before Dayton’s game against Ole Miss.
“The day before was so hectic,” Weaver said. “I had an exam. I had to finish the exam, turn it in and just wait for my grade to be posted. The day before, we couldn’t get any response — an email, nothing. I email (the professor) maybe three times in a row. Then I had other people, coaches, everybody emailing him, just trying to get the grade. Then finally the next day he still didn’t email back, but he posted the grades. When the grade was posted — we found out like two hours before — I was wearing my redshirt clothes. They told me to get dressed, that I was playing.”
Weaver said he knew he did well on the exam. He just needed to see the grade. Two days earlier, Grant had said he was waiting on UD’s compliance department to clear Weaver even though the NCAA had made him eligible.
Until the reports of the NCAA making all transfers eligible started circulating, Weaver planned to sit out the season and play the next two seasons. Now he can play this season and will still have two seasons remaining.
“When I first came here, the plan was just to get better and learn the system,” Weaver said, “so I could take over next year, so it wasn’t really a thing we talked about.”
Now Weaver will get the chance to play with four players who are likely in their final seasons at Dayton: guards Jalen Crutcher, Ibi Watson and Rodney Chatman; and center Jordy Tshimanga. All could choose to return next season because the NCAA is not counting this season against anyone’s eligibility. Those veterans have helped prepare Weaver for this opportunity. Dayton needed Weaver’s experience when it lost junior guard Dwayne Cohill to a season-ending knee injury in October.
“I lean on my teammates,” Weaver said. “These guys have been here. The three guards we have — Ibi, Chat and Jalen — they’ve helped me tremendously. Whatever I need, any question I have, they answer it. They demonstrate. They lead by example. I lean on them and some of the older guys, the big guys like Jordy and Chase (Johnson), all those guys who have been here in the system, I really lean on them. I ask them every question, even if it’s a question that’s so obvious and it’s right in front of me, I still ask the question because I know they’re going to help me”
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