Fans get first glimpse of new Flyers in exhibition Saturday

Dayton’s Jordan Pierce shoots at practice in September at the Cronin Center. David Jablonski/Staff

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Dayton’s Jordan Pierce shoots at practice in September at the Cronin Center. David Jablonski/Staff

Ohio Dominican returns all starters from 14-12 team

The Dayton Flyers posed for a team photo Thursday at UD Arena and shared some images on Twitter. The first thing that stands out from those shots — aside from Trey Landers channeling his inner Kendall Pollard with his choice of colorful shoes — was the size of the players in the back row.

Lined up next to each other, the team’s big men — Ryan Mikesell, Xeyrius Williams, Obadiah Toppin, Jordan Pierce, Kostas Antetokounmpo, Josh Cunningham and Matej Svoboda — showed just how more height this team has than a year ago. All of those players stand between 6-foot-7 and 6-11.

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Mikesell will sit out the season after undergoing hip surgeries in the summer. Toppin will practice but not play because he's anacademic redshirt. Even so, this is a lengthy team. That's one reason fans can't wait to see the players in action.

📸 day at #UDArena.

Can’t wait to step on the court in 2 days!

🏀
💪
❤️
💯
🔝#WeAreUD pic.twitter.com/WSTyClFvpq— Dayton Basketball (@DaytonMBB) November 2, 2017

The first chance comes at 7 p.m. Saturday. Dayton plays Ohio Dominican, a NCAA Division II program, in an exhibition game at 7 p.m. at UD Arena. Half of Dayton’s available scholarship players have never played in front of a fans at the arena, and there will be a big crowd as always. Fewer than 200 tickets remained as of Thursday.

Cunnningham, a 6-7 redshirt junior and the lone team captain, has tried to counsel the younger players to prepare them for the moment.

“I told them it’s an amazing feeling,” he said, “but I know when you first get out there you’re going to have jitters. Even when I sat out a year and didn’t play, I got the jitters just sitting there. I told them the first few times up and down the court, you’ll be nervous. After that, you’ll adjust to it.”

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

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Three of the new faces on the Flyers give their early impressions of college basketball practice.

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

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Dayton practiced once at the arena on Oct. 27 and held a "secret scrimmage" against Northern Kentucky, the defending Horizon League tournament champion, the next day.

Dayton’s exhibition opponent, Ohio Dominican, finished 14-12 last season. The Panthers return 14 letterwinners and all their starters, including guard Ronnie Williams, of Columbus Brookhaven. He led the team with 13.7 points per game last season.

This is the fourth straight season Ohio Dominican has played an exhibition game against a Division I opponent. It lost 94-79 to Toledo last season and also played Wright State, losing 109-54.

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One of the Panthers has a connection to Dayton basketball. Sophomore guard Sam Hickey, of Toledo, is the grandson of Gene Hickey, who averaged 4.4 points per game for the 1950-51 Flyers. That team finished 27-5 and was the NIT runner-up. Hickey was also a high school teammate of Dayton’s all-time winningest coach, Don Donoher.

"Basketball was everything for me," Gene Hickey said in a story posted to Ohio Dominican's website this week. "I had great teammates."

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

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Anthony Grant talks about his team??€™s progress heading toward Saturday??€™s exhibition game.

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

For Dayton, this is the last chance to play outside competition before the regular season begins. It faces Ball State in the season opener on Nov. 10 and then travels to South Carolina for the Charleston Classic the following week.

First-year coach Anthony Grant was asked Tuesday if his team was ready for real games.

“That’s a tough question,” Grant said. “When you’re as young as we are, you never feel like you’re ready. I feel like there’s still a lot of little things we need to implement and improve upon. We’ll be as ready as we can be when that time comes.”


SATURDAY’S GAME

Ohio Dominican at Dayton, 7 p.m., 95.7, 1290, TV (none)

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