Anthony Grant left open the possibility of playing freshman forward Frankie Policelli at some point this year if injuries take a toll on the Dayton Flyers bench.
Speaking on the Anthony Grant Show on Monday with WHIO’s Larry Hansgen, the Dayton coach repeated the news he announced Saturday after a 76-46 victory over Coppin State: Policelli will redshirt. Grant also said he wants Policelli to prepare himself to play on a daily basis just in case.
“You never know,” Grant said. “We had a scare with Josh (Cunningham) here. He’s missed two games. You never know what could happen during the course of a season. He’s got to stay ready mentally and physically. He understands and is prepared to do that.”
Division I teams can have 13 scholarship players. Without Policelli and with three transfers sitting out the season and one scholarship left open, Dayton has eight scholarship players and four walk-ons, one of whom, Jack Westerfield, saw meaningful minutes in several games last season.
One of Dayton’s most memorable teams, the 2015-16 group led by senior Jordan Sibert, made it to the NCAA tournament with six scholarship players and walk-on turned scholarship athlete Bobby Wehrli, though coach Archie Miller said at the time, “There will never be a team of seven people to duplicate what we did, win 27 games with six scholarship players.”
Dayton used seven scholarship players Saturday and will be in that situation any time a player misses a game as long as the plan for Policelli stays in place.
Grant said he talked to Policelli about the redshirt idea after the season opener. Dayton beat North Florida 78-70 on Nov. 7.
“We gave him an opportunity to look at it from our perspective,” Grant said. “Every kid walks onto a college campus, and they want to play. They want to compete. They want to be with their classmates. From a short-term standpoint, it’s a difficult decision. Long term, we felt it was the best situation. Talking to his family, he agreed. He saw the benefits of it. He’s got the maturity to think long term and understand and trust myself and our staff.”
Dayton’s roster should get a boost Friday in the third game of the season against Purdue Fort Wayne. In the latest update on Cunningham, Grant said he was able to shoot in practice Monday but did not participate in contact drills.
“We anticipate, if everything continues to go well, he should be back and available for us by Friday,” Grant said.
Cunningham missed the first two games of the season with after injuring his hand in practice Nov. 6. Obi Toppin replaced Cunningham in the starting lineup and scored 18 and 19 points in the two games. He was named Atlantic 10 Co-Rookie of the Week on Monday.
“We like having Josh available,” Grant said, “but you can’t control injuries. Next-man up mentality. We were a little short-handed. We had a couple of guys cramping over the course of the two games because of the extra load of minutes we had to play guys, but we got a chance to see some different combinations on the floor. We had a chance to look at some different lineups. I always felt if you can go through that adversity early in the year, just learning about yourself, that gave us a chance to learn a little quicker about ourselves. Obviously, once you add Josh back to the mix, you can see some different combinations that may be able to work well together based on the experience we got in the first two games.”
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