From all appearances, the five freshmen in the Dayton Flyers’ 2017 recruiting class have made themselves at home on campus and in the men’s basketball program. The signs are everywhere.
In a video posted to Twitter on Wednesday, Ryan Mikesell’s giving an interview when the camera turns around to show three freshmen — point guard Jalen Crutcher, center Jordan Pierce and forward Obadiah Toppin — dancing in the background in an attempt to distract him.
Freshman forward Matej Svoboda, the newcomer from the Czech Republic, toured Washington, D.C., over the summer with Joey Gruden and Mikesell. Toppin shared a video on Instagram of himself playing football with kids at UD’s fan fest at Welcome Stadium on Oct. 14.
The freshmen — not including Toppin, who will sit out the season as an academic redshirt — will have to play key roles if the Flyers wants to contend for an Atlantic 10 Conference championship or NCAA berth. At least one will likely be in the starting lineup when the season begins Nov. 10 against Ball State.
At A-10 Media Day on Tuesday in Washington, D.C., coach Anthony Grant, himself a newcomer, provided an update on each of the five players.
Crutcher: The 6-foot-1 point guard from Ridgeway High School in Memphis, Tenn., will wear No. 10. He was the first player recruited by Grant and his staff to sign with Dayton.
“Jalen Crutcher walked on campus at about 150 pounds,” Grant said. “We’ve got him to almost 170. It’s been really impressive. When you look at it, 170 is not where you want to be at, but his progress over the course of the summer is really good. He’s got a really good basketball IQ for a freshman. He’s got a good level of toughness about him. I’ve been impressed with his ability to handle everything we’ve thrown at him in terms of the magnitude and bulk of the workload in the weight room, classroom and practice. A lot of times that can be overwhelming for a freshman over the course of the first few months. He’s handled that very well.”
Jordan Davis: The 6-2 guard from Dutch Fork High School in Irmo, S.C., will wear No. 4. He scored a school-record 1,659 points in high school. He was the first recruit in the 2017 class to commit to Dayton and the first to decide to stay after Grant was hired. He’s also the first player in UD history from South Carolina.
“Jordan is a young man who physically walked in the door with a mature body,” Grant said. “He’s done a great job improving his conditioning, his stamina, his understanding of what we’re looking for in terms of being a guy who can play the two guard or really a small forward position. He’s got some versatility. He’s beginning to understand from a defensive standpoint the system and terminology and all those things. He’s wired to score. He’ll be a guy who can put up numbers with the way we’ll play.”
Pierce: The 6-11 center from Union Catholic High School in Scotch Plains, N.J., will wear No. 14. He averaged 12.1 points and 9.5 rebounds as a senior.
“Jordan Pierce is a guy that’s the opposite of Jalen,” Grant said. “He came in at about 290 pounds. We’ve got him in the 265 range. He’s lost a small child. He’s worked really hard. I think his best days are ahead of him. He’s learning what college basketball is all about. The thing I enjoy about him is he wants to be a good player. He’s got good hands. He’s got a soft touch around the basket. He’s physically imposing. Every day is an opportunity for him to learn and get better and grow.”
Svoboda: The 6-7 forward will wear No. 11. He turned 21 on Sept. 22. He’s Dayton’s first player from the Czech Republic.
“Just being in the United States is new, let alone the college experience,” Grant said. “He’s a guy who is a little older as a freshman. He has played against older guys and good competition over the course of his career. He’s a great guy, a great young man, a hard worker. I think he will provide some shooting for us. With his ability to stretch the floor, he can really get it going from an offensive standpoint.”
Toppin: The 6-8 forward from Ossining, N.Y., attended a year of prep school at Mount Zion Academy in Baltimore, so he will be two years removed from high school when he makes his debut in 2018-19.
“He won’t be playing this year,” Grant said, “but with the growth he’s had over the course of the time in the summer, we think his upside is really good.”
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