‘Everybody’s battling’ at Dayton for starting jobs, playing time early in preseason

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Dayton Flyers practice highlights: Oct. 7, 2021

Flyers started practice in first days of October and open the season Nov. 9

Head coach Anthony Grant opened the fourth Dayton Flyers practice of the preseason to local media on Thursday at the Cronin Center. The reporters present witnessed the first 15-20 minutes, which consisted of Grant leading one group of players through offensive drills and assistant coach Darren Hertz leading another.

» PHOTOS: Dayton preseason practice

Grant’s group included five players: Elijah Weaver; Toumani Camara; DaRon Homes; Koby Brea and Kobe Elvis.

Hertz coached a group with Mustapha Amzil, R.J. Blakney, Moulaye Sissoko, Lynn Greer, Kaleb Washington and Richard Amaefule.

It would be easy to speculate Grant’s group is a potential starting five because of all the 13 scholarship players, Weaver and Camara are the most likely to start, but one month before the season opener, no one knows for certain.

“I have no idea,” Weaver said. “It’s tough to tell right now. Everybody’s battling for a spot. It’s tough right now. But everybody’s looking good, so who knows.”

What is known is Dayton is in a much better position this October than a year ago at this time. There have been no campus lockdowns this year because of COVID-19 outbreaks. The players don’t have to undergo testing. They shouldn’t have to worry much this season about cancellations or postponements unless their opponents have issues. It appears the 2021-22 season will look like a normal season. That has been the case throughout the offseason.

“I think the biggest thing is we’ve been able to have some continuity from the summer to the fall,” Grant said, “and now that we’re into official practices, our guys have been able to learn some of our system. We’ve been able to get some things in place that we weren’t able to do a year ago at this time. With a lot of new faces at this time, it’s really valuable.”

Brea, who averaged 2.9 points in 17 games as a freshman, knows he will benefit from a normal offseason and preseason. He missed the first six games last season with an upper-body injury and made his debut in the Atlantic 10 Conference opener against La Salle on Dec. 30. He played his best at the end of the season, averaging 7.0 points in the last three games.

“For me, it was kind of like a slow growing process,” Brea said. “I had the injury early on, and being a freshman, I didn’t have much experience playing against guys at that level. But as the season went on, I just got more confident and more comfortable with myself with the help of coaches. Confidence was just the biggest key for me as the year went on.”

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Brea is still one of the youngest players on the team. He will turn 19 in November.

“I feel like I’m still a freshman, honestly,” Brea said. “I still haven’t played in front of the huge crowds.”

Neither has the other player named after Kobe Bryant on the roster. Kobe Elvis, a 6-2 guard, averaged 5.2 points in 19 games for DePaul last season. Brea was asked what it was like playing with a teammate with the same name, albeit with a different spelling.

“I think that’s our biggest problem right now,” Brea said with a laugh. “Nah, he’s a tremendous guy. I love him. It gets a little confusing at times. We’ve got to call each other by our last names.”

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Anthony Grant interview: Oct. 7, 2021

Dayton has seven newcomers, including four freshmen. UD fans will get their first chance to see the players at the Henny Penny Red Blue Dayton Basketball Fan Fest on Oct. 16 at UD Arena. Dayton will then play Cedarville University in an exhibition game Nov. 1 and Illinois-Chicago in the regular-season opener Nov. 9.

Weaver, the player on the roster with the most experience, gave his quick thoughts on freshman class Thursday.

On DaRon Holmes, who was the highest-ranked incoming freshman in the Atlantic 10 Conferences, Weaver said, “He comes in hungry, aggressive every day. He wants to get better every day. Just a good kid overall.”

On Lynn Greer III, Weaver said, “I’m super excited about Lynn. I can’t wait to see how he does this year and how he progresses over the years. He’s a super good freshman, very talented.”

On Malachi Smith, who watched practice Thursday from the sideline with a boot on his foot, Weaver said, “He’s a pest. He gets after it. High energy. I love the kid.”

On Kaleb Washington, a 6-7 forward, Weaver said, “He’s learning every day. He’s a good kid. He has a lot of potential.”

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Koby Brea interview: Oct. 7, 2021