Flyer Faithful return to their ‘favorite place on Earth’ for Fan Fest

Dayton men's and women's basketball players pose for a photo with fans who participated in a basketball camp at the Henny Penny Red Blue Dayton Basketball Fan Fest on Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021, at UD Arena. David Jablonski/Staff
Caption
Dayton men's and women's basketball players pose for a photo with fans who participated in a basketball camp at the Henny Penny Red Blue Dayton Basketball Fan Fest on Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021, at UD Arena. David Jablonski/Staff

Credit: David Jablonski

Credit: David Jablonski

Event at UD Arena gives fans first chance to see a number of newcomers

Fans of the Dayton Flyers started filing into UD Arena right at 4 p.m. when the doors opened for the Henny Penny Red Blue Dayton Basketball Fan Fest.

» PHOTOS: Dayton Basketball Fan Fest

For many fans, it marked the first chance to step inside the arena for a Dayton basketball event since March 7, 2020. The pandemic limited them to watching the team on TV throughout the 2020-21 season.

“It’s my favorite place on Earth,” said Brad Mueller, who brought his sons Colin and Noah, who wore an Obi Toppin Knicks jersey, “and it just feels good to be back.”

Dave Crumley saw games at The Basketball Tournament last summer at UD Arena but had not seen the Flyers in action since the pandemic began. Limited attendance last season made it hard for anyone but the biggest boosters or the families and friends of players and coaches to get tickets.

“It’s surreal to even be back because at first you thought you weren’t ever going to get back,” Crumley said. “Even to be back with a mask on is just something special, especially for our son, who enjoys this big time.”

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It was a new experience for many of the players as well. This was paid gig for them, one of the first of the name, image and likeness era. The Dayton men’s and women’s basketball players will share in the profits. Their coaches and the UD administration were not involved in putting on the event. Pro Camps and G3 Marketing organized the Fan Fest and rented the arena from the University of Dayton.

All the players sat in the concourse at UD Arena for an hour before the event on the court began. They signed autographs for fans. They even signed a homemade UD-themed barstool for one fan. They posed for many photos, of course. Earlier in the day, they coached at a series of basketball camps for kids at the arena.

The Flyers recognized how fortunate they were to get the chance to profit off their name, image and likeness, an issue that had been debated for years in the NCAA. The rules didn’t change until last summer.

“In the simplest words, it’s a blessing,” said Dayton forward Zimi Nwokeji, who said he wouldn’t be able to participate in the dunk contest or 3-point shooting contest because of a heel issue. “We’re the first student-athletes to be able to do something like this. It’s crazy. It’s special. It’s a part of history. It’s long overdue.”

The event gave fans their first chance to see seven newcomers on the men’s basketball roster, including freshman guard Lynn Greer III, who is part of a four-man freshman class that ranked higher than any recruiting class in UD history. The potential brings excitement.

“I think we’re very young, and we’re willing to learn,” Greer III said. “I think the Flyer fans are going to love us. We’re going to love our energy. They’re going to love our demeanor when we step on the court.”

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