“I remember meeting Big Steve for the first time,” Mikesell said. “It was pretty fun.”
All this shows how long Mikesell, who will be a fifth-year senior in the 2019-20 season, has been at the University of Dayton and how much he has experienced. He wasn’t as highly recruited as some Flyers because he played baseball in the summer and did not play in as many high-profile events as others.
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Mikesell first heard from Dayton before his junior season in 2013, and six years later, he's the most veteran player on a talented team. However, he's also quick to point out he's not the team's oldest player. He's 22 and was born on Dec. 29, 1996. Jordy Tshimanga, a redshirt junior center, was born seven weeks earlier. Jhery Matos, who turned 23 in January, is the oldest of the 11 scholarship players on the current team.
Dayton freshmen (left to right) Sam Miller, Xerius Williams, Ryan Mikesell and John Crosby stand during introductions before the Red and Blue game on Saturday, Oct. 24, 2015, at UD Arena in Dayton. David Jablonski/Staff
Dayton sophomores Ryan Mikesell, Xeyrius Williams, John Crosby and Sam Miller pose for a photo after a victory against Virginia Commonwealth on Wednesday, March 1, 2017, at UD Arena. David Jablonski/Staff
That veteran presence gives the St. Henry grad Mikesell, a 6-foot-7 forward, extra reason to be excited about his last season with the Flyers.
“I’m trying to soak everything in,” he said Tuesday during an interview at the Cronin Center. “This summer is my last summer being around the guys. I’m just maximizing my opportunities to be around the guys and getting ready for the season. Practices have been good and super competitive. We have a lot more guys, a lot more depth this year. Seeing that brings an extra level to each person’s game, which I think is what each player needs.”
Mikesell earned his degree in mechanical engineering in the spring and is now working on a master's degree in educational leadership because he wants to coach one day, though he's going to explore playing professional basketball before he puts the high-tops away. He still has one season of eligibility because he earned a medical redshirt in his third season, 2017-18, after undergoing surgeries on both hips.
Last season, Mikesell had no problems with the hips and delivered the best numbers of his career. He averaged 10.1 points, 5.3 rebounds and 2.3 assists in 30 minutes per game — all career highs by far — and started all 33 games for a team that finished 21-12.
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Mikesell has 584 points in his career and will have a chance to join the 1,000-point club in his final season. He shot 50.6 percent from the field last season and 33.9 percent from 3-point range. He was the team’s best free-throw shooter, making 81.1 percent of his attempts.
Dayton’s Ryan Mikesell signs autographs during a basketball fan fest event on Saturday, Oct. 14, 2017, at Welcome Stadium in Dayton. David Jablonski/Staff
All season long, Mikesell led the Flyers in the plus-minus stat, which measured how much Dayton outscored its opponents when he was on the floor. It symbolized what kind of player he was. He didn't always put up the biggest numbers, but he made his teammates better.
“I’m a big believer and big proponent of guys who are able to affect winning with stuff that doesn’t show up on the stat sheet,” Dayton coach Anthony Grant said last season. “As a coach, you love guys like that, and Ryan’s one of those guys.”
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In the offseason, Mikesell has worked on perfecting his jump shot.
“There are spurts throughout the season where I would shoot the ball well,” he said. “At the beginning of the year, I shot well. Then after the Bahamas, I kind of hit a cold streak for a while. Then after that, once A-10 picked up, I started hitting my stride again. Being more consistent is the biggest thing. I want to put on a little muscle so I can defend multiple positions and guard smaller, quicker guards.”
Of course, this season won’t be about individual goals for Mikesell or anyone. After a two-year drought, Dayton wants to return to the top of the Atlantic 10 Conference championship and play in the NCAA tournament.
“I think if we don’t have those expectations, what’s the point of playing or competing at this level,” Mikesell said. “Last year was really tough on me because my first two years we played in the NCAA tournament and won the A-10. When we lost (in the A-10 tournament) to St. Louis, I had an idea we weren’t going to make it. It really killed me.”