Grant: Dayton improves ‘play-making ability’ with addition of Chatman

Flyers will have plenty of guard depth in 2019-20

The phone calls came fast for Rodney Chatman after he announced his decision to leave the Chattanooga Mocs on May 2.

Numerous colleges, including Virginia Tech and Dayton, contacted the 6-foot-1 point guard. He knew enough about the Dayton Flyers — including the fact that they played in four straight NCAA tournaments from 2014-17 — to pay close attention to that call.

“Dayton was one of the ones I would always be interested in,” Chatman said.

That interest led him to visit campus Sunday and Monday, and he needed only one visit to make up his mind. Chatman committed to Dayton on Monday afternoon, and Dayton officially announced the addition of Chatman on Tuesday.

» RELATED: Five things to know about Chatman

Chatman, of Lithonia, Ga., will have to sit out the 2018-19 season because of NCAA transfer rules and will make his debut in the 2019-20 season.

“If you look at what Rodney was able to do in his two years at Chattanooga, I thought he did a really good job of running the point for them,” Dayton coach Anthony Grant said. The numbers he put up kind of speak for themselves, and when he became available, we were fortunate to make some contact and get him here. I think he was really impressed with everything he saw, the people he met, the resources we have and the facilities. He made a decision to join us, so it’s awesome.”

Guard depth

Dayton will be loaded with talent on the perimeter when Chatman and Michigan transfer Ibi Watson, who's also sitting out the coming season, join the rotation.

Chatman, Watson, Jalen Crutcher and Jordan Davis will all be juniors in the 2019-20 season. Trey Landers and Jhery Matos, a junior-college transfer who joins Dayton’s roster this season as a junior, will be seniors.

Dwayne Cohill will be a sophomore. Forwards Ryan Mikesell, Obadiah Toppin and Frankie Policelli, all of whom can play inside and out, will also be in the rotation. Mikesell will be a redshirt senior, Toppin a redshirt sophomore and Policelli a sophomore.

“Today’s game does revolve around guard play, and you can’t win the championship without them,” Chatman said. “I think in two years we’ll be really good with a lot of depth starting and on the bench, and I think that will help us get to where we need to be.”

» MORE ON CHATMAN: He committed during photo shoot

Rhode Island won the Atlantic 10 regular-season championship last season with four guards in the starting lineup. Kansas played four guards last season. Villanova has run a four-guard offense. Dayton did last season with Darrell Davis, Crutcher, Jordan Davis and Landers joining Josh Cunningham in the lineup.

There’s no guarantee Dayton will use that strategy in two seasons — it still has two scholarships it can fill this season and at least one after next season — but having depth on the perimeter is important to Grant.

“We talked about a need for our team to have more guys with play-making ability and the need to increase our skill level on the perimeter,” Grant said. “When you look at last year, we were a pretty efficient team in terms of our ability to score the ball, but we struggled in terms of our ability to take care of the ball at times and with some of the decision making in crucial situations, so the priority for myself and our staff was to increase the skill level and the play-making ability on our team, so when you can add a guy like Rodney to go along with Crutcher and Cohill — and Jordan Davis is a guy who’s developing that ability to play-make for us as well in the backcourt — it really helps.”

» LOOK AHEAD: What the roster looks like now

Asked if he was looking for a big man for this season or next season to replace Cunningham, who will be a redshirt season in the 2018-19 season, Grant said, “Everything’s on the table. Right now, obviously, we’re still actively recruiting and seeing what makes sense for our team.”

Added maturity

Like Watson, Chatman will help the team this season in practice even though he can’t play in games.

“The old saying is iron sharpens iron,” Grant said. “So to have a guy with two years experience that’s been through some of the rigors of college basketball, along with Ibi, it is a level of maturity that you add to your team. The combination of their ability to grow their games, improve and get better and learn our system but also make our team better, that excites me.”

Chatman wants to improve his physicality by adding muscle and work on his jump shot. He shot 45.3 percent from the field and 33.9 percent from 3-point range last season, averaging 13.3 points per game.

» MORE ON 2018 CLASS: Ibi WatsonFrankie Policelli Jhery MatosDwayne Cohill

Chattanooga took a step back in Chatman’s sophomore season, finishing 10-23 in the first season for coach Lamont Paris. The Mocs were 19-12 in Chatman’s freshman season, which was McCall’s last season. The previous year, they beat Dayton 61-59 at UD Arena, finished 29-6 and made the NCAA tournament.

Despite the team’s struggles, Chatman took his game to the next level. His numbers improved across the board from his freshman to sophomore season.

“It most definitely took off,” he said. “I spent hours in the gym during the summer — early mornings and late nights. I practiced a lot of things. This past season, it was what it was. I’m not going to harp on it. It was a great learning experience. I took something from it. It only makes me want to win more. I think I can do that here at Dayton.”

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