Five members of the Dayton Flyers will run onto Tom Blackburn Court at UD Arena for the final time at 8 p.m. Wednesday on Senior Night for a pivotal game against Virginia Commonwealth. They will enter what it often called the decibel dungeon, knowing full well how lucky they have been to play in front of the most fervent fan bases in the country.
The Flyer Faithful know how to make noise when its team needs it the most. As the kids say these days, they know how to get LOWD — or loud if you’re not into the new English being invented at UD.
However, what the fans don’t see before every game, is a pregame ritual that started two seasons ago when Scoochie Smith, Kyle Davis, Kendall Pollard and walk-on Jeremiah Bonsu were sophomores and Charles Cooke was a junior sitting out the season as a transfer from James Madison.
The team’s pregame song-and-dance routine echoes from the fancy new locker rooms at the Don Donoher Center at UD Arena down the ramp to the entrance to the court. It all started when Dayton lost 77-60 at Davidson on Jan. 20, 2015. Before the next game at Richmond, guard Darrell Davis, then a freshman, started singing as the team was warming up. Coach Archie Miller noticed and told him to keep doing it.
“We just stuck with it,” Kyle Davis said. “Every time we warm up, we start singing. It gets everybody hyped and ready for the game.”
What do they sing? Over the years, the songs have changed. Bonsu said they used to sing “Lifestyle,” by Young Thug. They’ve used “Throwback” by Nelly. Lately, “Timeless,” by A Boogie wit da Hoodie, is a popular pick. In other words, they don’t sing anything a majority of the fans at UD Arena could pick out of a lineup.
Davis is the ringleader, Bonsu said, because he got it started two years ago and he remains the loudest Flyer. Somtimes, Bonsu said, Cooke tries to put a weird song in the mix.
The switch songs fast if they don’t like the choice and often go through four songs between the time they start stretching and the time they walk with their arms around each other to the court.
Twenty years from now, the seniors may remember these songs as much as the many victories — 101 and counting. This game Wednesday gives the class, already the winningest in school history, a chance to do something no class has ever done at UD.
The Flyers have to win only one of their last two games — they close the regular season at George Washington at 8 p.m. Saturday — to share the title, but that isn’t the goal. Winning it outright is the only thing on their minds.
“We want it bad,” Pollard said. “We don’t want to share nothing. Last year we had a few games when we slipped up. This year we did pretty good in conference. We put ourselves in position to win it outright.”
Smith (1,222), Pollard (1,111) are already members of the 1,000-point club, ranking 30th and 35th in the record book. Cooke (907) could join them with a late push. He ranks 58th. Kyle Davis (806) ranks 66th.
This is a group that will be missed by all, especially Miller.
“There’s going to be a lot of build-up, a lot of emotion that goes into this, just like every senior night,” Miller said. “This group has accomplished a lot and they’ve done it in a very unique way together. The entire program and university and the fans have seen them grow up from day one. It will be emotional. At the same time, you’re going to have to put that stuff aside. There’s nothing like Senior Night, but the only way it truly feels good is you find a way to win by one point.”
This will be the 67th home game for the senior class. They have played in front of a 890,901 fans. With another crowd of better than 13,000 expected, the total attendance will top 900,000 in their careers. Dayton is 58-8 at home in that span. The seniors can end their home careers on a 14-game winning streak if they beat VCU.
“It’s been amazing,” said Smith, the only one of the seniors to have played in every game of the past four seasons. “It’s been wonderful, way better than I expected. It’s been a terrific ride. We thank everyone for the journey.”
VCU at Dayton, 8 p.m., CBS Sports Network, FM 95.7, AM 1290 WHIO