Flyers take break from ‘hard-working summer’ for meet and greet with fans

Close to 200 members of the Flyer Faithful attend Dayton 6th event at Warped Wing

SPRINGBORO — Fans brought basketballs, framed photos of UD Arena, jerseys, etc., to Warped Wing Barrel House and Smokery on Monday. The 14 Dayton Flyers men’s basketball players in attendance at a meet and greet organized by Dayton 6th signed everything put in front of them and posed for just as many photos.

Adults paid $75 for tickets. Tickets for children cost $25.

The money bought fans food and drinks but, most importantly for UD fans looking forward to the 2024-25 season, access to the players, who profited off the event. The opportunity wouldn’t have been possible before the name, image and likeness era began in 2021.

For three players in attendance — Ohio State transfer Zed Key, Marshall transfer Jacob Conner and Butler transfer Posh Alexander — it was their first experience with a large group of Dayton fans.

“The fan base really supports the program,” Key said. “It’s great to see Flyer Nation out here in great numbers.”

All but two scholarship players attended the event. The two incoming freshmen on the team — Hamad Mousa, of Qatar, and Amaël L’Etang, of France — have not yet arrived on campus.

Matt Farrell, the executive director of Dayton 6th, the NIL collective that supports UD athletes, expected close to 200 fans at the event. They filled every corner of Warped Wing.

Fans would have been quick to notice one Dayton player, redshirt freshman guard Marvel Allen, showed up with a brace on his left leg and needed a crutch to get around. Allen said he underwent a procedure on his knee. He said he needed the knee “cleaned up” and will return to the court in August.

Dayton players have been working on individual skills most of this month but held their first team workout earlier Monday.

“We’re all kind of learning each other’s games,” the Alter grad Conner said. “It’s been a hard-working summer so far.”

“We’re trying to build team chemistry one step at a time,” guard Malachi Smith said.

Smith, who will be a redshirt junior next season, was one of the most popular players at the event. He missed all of last season after injuring his knee in the opening minutes of the first game. Now he’s been cleared for full-contact practices and has even played a couple games of 5-on-5.

“I’m just getting started,” Smith said. “I feel good about my body. I trust my body a little bit more.”

Credit: David Jablonski

Credit: David Jablonski

Smith is one of two players entering their fourth year with the program. The other is Alter grad Brady Uhl, who earned a scholarship in January after two-plus seasons as a walk-on. He will have a scholarship for the entire 2024-25 season.

When coach Anthony Grant surprised Uhl with the scholarship last season, he told him there was no guarantee Uhl would keep it for the next season.

“He said no promises,” Uhl said, “because with the way college basketball is, you never know with roster changes and who you have next year.”

Dayton lost five players to the transfer portal in the spring but gained three transfers and added two freshmen.

“It’s tough seeing guys you grew close to over the last few years leave,” Uhl said, “but they’re going on to great and better things and doing what’s best for themselves. But it’s also great to get really good players and also really good guys back on campus. We’re waiting for the French kid, Amaël, and Hamad, the kid from Qatar. They’re coming later this month or next month, so we’re excited to have them as well.”

The biggest difference between the new team and the group that ended Dayton’s seven-year NCAA tournament drought in March is the absence of forward DaRon Holmes II, the team’s leading scorer the last three seasons. Holmes expects to hear his name called in the NBA Draft next week. His former team is figuring out how it will play without a player who was a three-time team MVP and a consensus All-American in his final season.

“Everything’s going to change now,” Smith said. “He was our No. 1 option. We’ve got some learning to do.”

“I think it’ll be different,” Uhl said. “Every possession we always tried to get DaRon a touch. This year, we have different guys. We have a lot more playmakers. I think there’s going to be a lot more ball movement and finishing around the rim. It’s going to be interesting to see, but I think we’re going to be pretty good, though.”

Credit: David Jablonski

Credit: David Jablonski

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