40 years later: Celebrating the 1984 Dayton Flyers

Elite Eight team overcame 7-7 star to create late-season magic

Credit: David Jablonski

Credit: David Jablonski

Roosevelt Chapman looks like he could still play basketball — because he does. Now 62, the former Dayton Flyers star still hoops at a YMCA in Sioux Falls, S.D., where he’s lived for many years.

“I feel pretty good,” Chapman said in December. “My knees are still intact.”

“You still got the shot?” he was asked.

“Still got the shot,” he said.

No one has made more shots in a Dayton uniform than Chapman. He remains the program’s all-time leading scorer with 2,233 points 40 years after his final game.

While Chapman’s greatest legacy is as a prolific scorer, he’s a legend in Dayton just as much for helping lead the team to the Elite Eight as a senior in 1984.

Dayton honored Chapman, coach Don Donoher and the rest of that team at a ceremony on Dec. 2 during halftime of a game against Grambling State at UD Arena. The 40th anniversary event gave the 1983-84 Flyers an opportunity to reunite in front of a sold-out crowd of 13,407 fans at UD Arena.

Chapman had Donoher laughing as everyone watched a video tribute on the scoreboard. Current Dayton coach Anthony Grant, a freshman on that 1984 team, left the locker room a few minutes earlier to stand on the court with his former teammates.

The best moment of the event came as the 2023-24 Flyers went through a handshake line with the 1983-84 Flyers — the stars of the past crossing paths with players who hope to follow in their footsteps by creating memorable March moments this year.

All but three members of the 1984 roster showed up for the ceremony. Chapman hadn’t seen some of them since the last game in 1984.

“To get together today was awesome,” Chapman said. “All of them look good. They’re in good spirits. It seems like we were in the locker room yesterday telling jokes. That’s how it was today. It was very special.”

The 1983-84 season was Donoher’s 20th. He guided the program to the NCAA tournament six times in his first nine seasons, reaching the NCAA championship game in 1967 and winning the NIT a year later. By the time the 1983 season started, though, the Flyers had not played in the NCAA tournament since 1974.

The nine seasons prior to 1983-84 included more losing seasons (10-16 in 1974-75 and 13-14 in 1979-80) than 20-win seasons (21-9 in 1981-82). When the 1983-84 season began, the Flyers knew what they had in Chapman, who averaged 23.0 points per game the previous season, but they had to replace their second and third-leading scorers, guard Kevin Conrad and center Mike Reichert.

No one knew quite what to expect when the season began, but all these years later, they know what made the team tick.

“It was very much of a team,” said guard Damon Goodwin, a sophomore guard that season. “That’s kind of the special part about it.”

Here’s a look back at that special team:

Credit: David Jablonski

Credit: David Jablonski

MVP: Chapman, a 6-4 guard from Brooklyn, N.Y., led the team with 21.8 points, 9.1 rebounds and 1.4 steals per game. He also averaged a team-high 37.7 minutes per game.

Donoher talked about Chapman’s strengths in March that season.

“He has remarkable hands,” Donoher sald. “He’ll catch anything that comes his way. He has amazing balance. He’s made shots that you’d compare to those made by Jullus Erving. Sometimes, he’ll spin them off the board like a pool player putting spin on the ball. He’s made shots people around here are in awe of.

“He’s fast and strong. We use him out in front of the press and he’ll go at anybody and score on anybody. He’s a very pleasant kid, well accepted by the people in town and by his teammates. On the bus, he’s the life of the party. He’s got charisma. He has a great personality and he’s been a pleasant person to be around.”

Credit: David Jablonski

Credit: David Jablonski

Best newcomer: A 6-2 guard from Wilbur Wright High School in Dayton, Sedric Toney started his college career at Phillips Business College in Gulfport, Miss., averaging 18 points per game. Then he played a season at Nebraska Western Junior College, where he averaged 21 points.

In his first season at Dayton, Toney averaged 11.6 points per game and was one of four players to average more than 30 minutes per game.

“Sedric’s probably our most dominant defensive player,” Donoher said before the season. “But he’s got a bad back, and it’s chronic. Plus, he’s got a bad thumb on his shooting hand. It’s a wonder he doesn’t get more injuries. He throws his body everywhere. He’s fearless. He’ll take more charges in one practice than we’ve had anyone here take in a long time.”

Credit: David Jablonski

Credit: David Jablonski

Most improved player: Goodwin, a 6-6 guard from St. Mary’s, averaged 2.5 points in 8.6 minutes per game a season earlier as a freshman. In the 1983-84 season, he stepped into a starting role and averaged 10.1 points and 4.6 rebounds in 30.3 minutes per game.

“I had back surgery in May,” he said, “and they were talking about redshirting me that year. At that time, I didn’t want to do it. So I swam a lot. I used to swim in the summers in high school. Coach Donoher was shocked that I was able to play in the fall and actually start the season.”

The plan before the season was for Goodwin to back up Larry Schellenberg, a 6-3 senior guard. They both ended up starting. Schellenberg averaged 6.3 points in 33.6 minutes.

Top freshman: The freshman class included: 6-1 guard Dan Christie, of Oak Harbor, Ohio, near Toledo; 6-9 center Don Hughes, of Alter; and Grant, a 6-6 forward from Miami, Fla.

While Grant and Hughes played limited minutes, Christie was the team’s sixth man, averaging 3.6 points and 1.8 assists in 12.7 minutes. Before the season, Donoher called Christie the team’s best passer. At that time, he was competing with Ted Harris, a 6-1 junior guard from Alter for the point guard spot.

Worst roster news: Paul Hawkins, a 6-3 guard from Dunbar High School, was supposed to play a key role for Dayton as a senior but missed the entire season because he was academically ineligible.

When the season began, Donoher expected Hawkins to return in January. Then in early January, news broke that he wouldn’t be able to play all season. He never played again for the Flyers after scoring 499 points in three seasons, most of those as a freshman when he averaged 9.5 points.

Hawkins played the following season at Division II Southern Colorado, averaging 14.7 points. He earned his degree from UD in 1982.

Late start: Dayton opened the season on Dec. 3, 1983, with an 80-78 victory against Northeast Louisiana, now known as Louisiana-Monroe, at UD Arena. All but three teams in the country had started their season by that point. Dayton had two games scheduled a week earlier, but a game against Rollins was cancelled before the schedule was released and a game against Loyola Chicago was moved to January.

Dayton won its 33rd straight season opener. It almost blew an 18-point lead, but Ed Young, a 6-7 sophomore forward, made four free throws in the final 21 seconds to preserve the victory.

Sign of the times: Gary Nuhn, the UD beat writer for the Dayton Daily News, referenced Cabbage Patch Dolls in his preview of the season opener and in his game story. This was at the peak of the Cabbage Patch Kids craze.

“Bad news from Flyer country,” Nuhn wrote before the game. “There will be no Cabbage Patch dolls given away tonight when the University of Dayton basketball team opens its season.”

Slow start: Dayton lost 67-59 to Miami at Millett Hall in its second game and then 82-60 at Michigan in its third game. It beat Youngstown State 73-64 but then lost 77-70 at Toledo and 73-67 at home to Virginia Commonwealth in the first matchup against a program that would become Dayton’s main Atlantic 10 Conference rival 30 years later.

Dayton fans were not happy with the officials during the VCU game. One threw a bottle that hit a woman seated near the VCU bench, according to a game story by Marc Katz, of the Dayton Daily News. Dayton center Jeff Zern, Chapman and Toney all fouled out in the game.

Donoher kept the mood positive even as the team fell to 2-4.

“I think these kids can play,” he said. “I really do.”

Up and down: Dayton responded to the VCU loss with four straight victories at home against Yale, Eastern Kentucky, Oklahoma State and Miami but then lost three of four games. It stood at 7-7 after a 66-64 overtime loss at Marquette on Jan. 21. It was Dayton’s third overtime loss, then a school record, and the three OT losses came in a stretch of four games.

Dayton had a chance to beat Marquette with two seconds left. Ed Young made one free throw to tie the game but missed the second. In overtime, the Flyers had the ball with 1:32 to play and ran the clock down in the days before the shot clock. Here’s what Katz wrote about the play that ensued:

The Flyers worked the clock down to just a few seconds and Young took the shot from about 12 feet near the baseline to the left of the basket. The ball bounced off the rim and into the hands of Marquette’s Dwayne Johnson, who threw it outo Mandy Johnson running down court.

(Ted) Harris, who specializes in taking the charge, tried to plant himself near midcourt, and when Johnson took the pass, his head was turned away from Harris, who went down in a heap.

Referee Terry Kuhl, in front of the play, immediately rammed his hands on his hips for a block call against Harris. There was one second to go, and Johnson had a bonus situation at the line. He made the first, rendering the second almost meaningless, but he made that, too.

Turning point: Dayton won 71-68 at Western Kentucky on Jan. 25 to start a six-game winning streak. It was Donoher’s 350th career victory.

Dayton scored its last 11 points at the free-throw line. Schellenberg made two free throws with 15 seconds remaining to give Dayton a 3-point lead in an era before the 3-point shot. Schellenberg had missed three crucial free throws 11 days earlier in a 56-51 overtime loss to Missouri at UD Arena.

“I was just thinking about making them,” he said. “Three dribbles, sight the basket and shoot.”

Credit: David Jablonski

Credit: David Jablonski

Best game: As I wrote in my book, “The Epicenter of College Basketball: A History of UD Arena,” this game needs no introduction.

“Ed Young.

“One second.

“Off the glass.

“Dayton 72, DePaul 71.”

Those were the first words Dayton Daily News sportswriter Gary Nuhn wrote on February 18, 1984. He had the privilege of writing about one of the most famous games in Dayton history. Young’s buzzer-beater against the No. 3 Blue Demons on Feb. 18, 1984, gave Dayton its eight victory in nine games.

Here’s what I wrote about the shot in the book:

In 1984, only the NBC-TV cameras captured the shot by Young. It is easily viewable on YouTube.com these days. The clip starts with DePaul senior guard Raymond McCoy at the foul line with 11 seconds to play. Behind the basket, Dayton students waved their arms, jumping up and down, holding up signs and making as much noise as possible.

“It seemed like every voice pounded off the floor and came right back and hit you in the face,” Dayton freshman guard Sedric Toney said after the game.

McCoy missed the front end of a 1-and-1. Dayton junior guard Larry Schellenberg grabbed the rebound after it was tipped to him. He dribbled down the side of the court, past the DePaul bench, beating one defender and then splitting two defenders near midcourt. Dayton thought Schellenberg got bumped on his way down the court. DePaul thought he stepped out of bounds.

Schellenberg passed the ball to Chapman, near the 3-point line, if there had been a 3-point line in those days. Chapman, who led the Flyers with 19 points, surprised everyone by not taking the shot.

“I love pressure shots,” he said after the game, “but they were keying on me. I could have made something happen, but I’m glad I made the pass.”

Reliving the moment in 1999, Chapman said, “When I got the ball from Schelly, I remember thinking to myself, ‘This is my showtime, right now.’”

“I was astounded he didn’t create a shot,” Donoher said after the game. “I mean the guy can create a shot standing on his head.”

Chapman dribbled once and passed the ball to Young in the paint. Young dribbled once, spun away from a defender and made a 12-foot fade-away jump shot over DePaul sophomore center Marty Embry as time expired. Young jumped with both hands straight in the air in front of the Dayton bench. Sophomore guard Damon Goodwin was the first player to reach him as a crowd of 12,723 erupted.

“Truly amazing,” Goodwin said after the game.

“I looked at the clock, and it said ‘one, (then) zero,’ and it was the best feeling I ever had,” Young said.

Strong finish: DePaul didn’t have to wait long to avenge its loss to Dayton. The teams played in their next game. The Blue Demons, now ranked fifth, won 79-59. Dayton then won 82-60 at Cincinnati, lost 72-61 at Xavier and beat Notre Dame 80-70 at UD Arena before hosting Old Dominion in the final game of the regular season.

The Flyers entered the game needing a victory to keep its hopes of receiving a NCAA tournament bid alive but didn’t know if a victory would be enough. Old Dominion was also on the bubble.

Dayton was 17-10 entering the final game of the regular season for the second straight sseason. It beat DePaul to finish 18-10 in 1983 but wasn’t invited to the NCAA tournament or NIT.

“We went through all that last year,” Donoher said the week of the game. “There’s no need in even discussing it. Our job is winning as many games as we can and then we’ll let the rest of it take care of itself. I’ll tell you one thing, though. Our team will play as if everything is on the line because they play that way every night. Who knows? Maybe it is.”

Dayton beat Old Dominion 64-63. It was its fourth one-point victory of the season. Toney made a go-ahead free throw with five seconds remaining.

“The Flyers are expected to be extended a NIT bid and are a long shot for a NCAA bid,” Katz wrote.

Best surprise: The NIT didn’t call. The Flyers received a NCAA tournament bid instead in part because of a number of losses by other teams hoping to get a bid. Donoher was working on his weekly TV show at WHIO on Sunday, March 11, when he got the news from Athletic Director Tom Frericks that Dayton would play LSU on Thursday in Salt Lake City, Utah.

“When he said it was an NCAA bid, I couldn’t believe it,” Donoher said, “but I’m not totally amazed, either. It’s just that unknown thing of what factors are In their computer system. I know our numbers had soared. The last Dunkel Index in the Basketball Times, we would have been the 12th team In. And in the last Basketball Weekly, we were rated 21st for the month of February.”

Good start: Dayton beat LSU 74-66 in the first round. Chapman made 10 of 15 shots and 9 of 9 free throws, scoring 29 points.

“He was virtually unstoppable,” LSU forward Don Redden said.

“He was a man against boys,” Toney said. “He was freaky deaky.”

Zern provided an unexpected contribution off the bench, tallying six points and eight rebounds in 20 minutes. In Dayton’s previous 17 games, he had four points and five rebounds.

Big upset: Dayton beat No. 7 Oklahoma 89-85 in the second round. Chapman scored a career-high 41 points.

“I’m just so happy to see Chapman get his due,” Donoher said, “because we’ve seen this act for four years. We’ve had kids like Johnny Davis and Jimmy Paxson who have done this, but we’re just an independent in the 49th (TV) market and we’re right in the Big Ten belt and we don’t get the exposure. I’m just so happy other people are finally getting to see what this kid can do.”

Moving on: The run continued at UCLA’s Pauley Pavilion the next week with Dayton beating No. 15 Washington 64-58. Chapman scored 22 points. Toney had 14.

“If this is a dream, we really don’t want to wake up,” Chapman said.

Final game: Dayton lost 61-49 to Georgetown in the Elite Eight. The Flyers knocked off an Oklahoma team led by future NBA star Wayman Tisdale in the second round and then a Washington team led by a future All-Star, Detlef Schrempf, in the Sweet 16. Georgetown, whose star was future Hall of Famer Patrick Ewing, was too tough.

Ewing scored 15 points. The Hoyas then beat Kentucky and Houston to win their first and only national championship.

Dayton finished the season 21-11. Chapman had 13 points in his final game as a Flyer. Young led the team with 14 points.

“I think this team gave everything it had,” Donoher said.

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