Grant: New recruit brings unique skill, experience to Dayton Flyers

The Dayton Flyers still need a point guard, but their roster looked a little fuller Monday after they announced the signing of Matej Svoboda, a 6-foot-7 forward from the Czech Republic.

Svoboda, 20, is the first recruit to sign a national letter of intent since the hiring of new coach Anthony Grant.

“I like the style he wants to play,” Svoboda wrote in an email to the Dayton Daily News. “He is a really good coach with NBA experience, and I’m sure he can make me a better player and also do big things with Dayton.”

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Asked about getting through the NCAA clearinghouse, which forced freshman Kostas Antetokounmpo to sit out last season, Svoboda said he has to take one last high-school exit exam.

“If I make it, everything will be fine,” he said.

Svoboda expects to enroll at UD for the second summer session in June. He and Antetokounmpo, who was born in Greece, will be the ninth and 10th foreign-born players to suit up for the Flyers.

Svoboda is the third recruit in the class of 2017. Guard Jordan Davis and center Jordan Pierce told Grant in April they were sticking with the Flyers. McKinley Wright reopened his recruitment and signed last week with Colorado, and forward Nahziah Carter was released from his letter of intent and is looking at other schools.

Svoboda caught the attention of college coaches when he averaged 19.0 points at the FIBA U-20 European Championships in Helsinki, Finland, in 2016. He was the second-leading scorer in the tournament behind Lauri Markkanen, a 7-0 center who signed with Arizona last year and starred for the Wildcats as a freshman. Svoboda was the top 3-point shooter at the tournament, making 21 of 42.

“I’m excited to add Matej to our program,” Grant said in a press release. “His skill set and experience against high-level competition make him unique among most college freshmen. Someone who has his size and shooting ability will fit into our style of play very quickly. He’s is excited to be a part of the Flyer basketball family and we’re very happy to have him.”

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Svoboda verbally committed to the University of Dayton on Feb. 5, one day after watching the Flyers play Duquesne at UD Arena. He liked the game-day atmosphere at UD Arena and also mentioned the practice gym, weight room, the training facility at the Cronin Center and the apartments where the players live on campus.

“I like the campus,” Svoboda said. “I like the attitude of all people around the team. It is really different than here.”

The departure of head coach Archie Miller and assistant coach Tom Ostrom to Indiana left doubts about whether Svoboda would sign with Dayton. Ostrom was the assistant who recruited Svoboda to Dayton.

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Svoboda told the Dayton Daily News via email on April 17 he was still considering Dayton but had not been contacted by Dayton since Grant was hired.

“I was really confused and nervous because everything was clear with them, and out of nowhere they left,” Svoboda said. “I didn’t know if I should stay or start looking at other schools or what. But I’m really happy to stay.”

Although Svoboda will be considered a freshman, he’s the third-oldest player of the 10 scholarship players currently on the roster. He was born on Sept. 22, 1996. Guard Darrell Davis, who will be the team’s only senior, was born on May 9, 1996. Forward Josh Cunningham, who will be a redshirt junior, was born on Aug. 11, 1996.

Svoboda has been playing as an amateur with CEZ Basketball Nymburk, which plays in the NBL, the top professional league in the Czech Republic. Nymburk is located 36 miles northeast of Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic.

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This season, Svoboda has appeared in 20 games. He has averaged 4.6 points and 1.2 rebounds in 9.6 minutes per game.

Earlier in his career, Svoboda made history as the youngest player in the Czech Republic’s top league. He played in two games when he was 15 for Ostrava, the club in his hometown.

Svoboda chose playing college basketball over becoming a paid pro player.

“It’s not easy to became a pro player when you go from the junior team to the men’s team,” Svoboda said. “Especially in the Czech Republic. A lot of teams here prefer to play more with experienced players than young players like me. Because of this, I decided to play college basketball, where I can improve my skills and became a better player and then be more ready for pro basketball. And also a lot of American players on our team recommend I go to college.”

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