The opportunity to play point guard factored into University of Southern California transfer Elijah Weaver’s decision to commit to the Dayton Flyers on Monday, his former coach Kenny Gillion said.
Gillion coached Weaver for two seasons with Team Breakdown on the Under Armour circuit. Weaver and Anfernee Simons, who now plays for the Portland Trail Blazers, formed one of the best backcourts in the country.
“He was a big point guard,” Gillion said of Weaver. “He’s an excellent playmaker. Good size. Very good defender. We played against the best guards around the country. Anfernee was kind of like the combo guard, and (Weaver) was the point guard. Once he got to college, I didn’t see him on the ball exclusively as much as I thought he would be on the ball because his best attribute is passing. When you take him off the ball, he doesn’t look the same.”
Weaver, a 6-foot-6, 210-pound guard, averaged 5.1 points and 2.4 assists in 20.5 minutes per game as a freshman at USC in 2018-19. He appeared in 28 games that season, starting five, despite missing all of the preseason practices. He underwent ankle surgery Aug. 30 and didn’t start practicing until Nov. 8.
» MORE COVERAGE: Seven things to know about Weaver
As a sophomore last season, Weaver appeared in all 31 games, making 14 starts and averaging 6.6 points and 1.8 assists in 22.1 minutes.
Freshman Ethan Anderson started at point guard last season for the Trojans. After sitting out a season as a transfer, Weaver will get a chance to earn that job in the 2021-22 season at Dayton. Jalen Crutcher, assuming he withdraws his name from the NBA Draft, will be a four-year starter for the Flyers in the 2020-21 season, and his job will be open a year from now.
Gillion said Weaver’s natural position is point guard, and in 20 years of coaching, he’s one of the best he’s had.
“He’s the type of guy that wants to be on the ball,” Gillion said. “He wants to pretty much control the narrative on the floor. He’s very unselfish. He loves setting guys up. He’s a vocal leader. That was one of the things that didn’t sit well with him: not being truly on the point.”
When Weaver burst onto the national scene as a sophomore at Oldsmar Christian High School, near Tampa, Fla., he played point guard, Gillion said. He played the point as a junior when he led Oldsmar to a state championship and again as a senior at Rockledge High School, across the state near Cocoa.
“With his size, sometimes people want to slide you off the ball,” Gillion said. “If he was more of a score-first guy, he could do it, but with him being an unselfish pass-first guy, he has to be at the point guard position.”
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While the opportunity to play that position helped Weaver make his decision, connections with the Dayton coaching staff also helped. Gillion knows Grant and Dayton assistant coach Darren Hertz well because they’re both from Florida and have recruited his players in years past. Gillion also coached former Flyer Jhery Matos, who transferred to Charlotte in April, with Team Breakdown and at West Oaks Academy in Florida.
Gillion said he, Oldsmar Christian coach Jordan Fair and Weaver’s parents, Taucia Brown and Maurice Griffin, helped guide Weaver through the recruiting process this spring.
“He wanted each one of the coaches that was trying to recruit him to talk to his parents, talk to me and talk to Jordan,” Gillion said, “and if all three of us gave the school a thumbs up, then he would go into it more in depth. He kind of wanted to get three different opinions.”
Gillion said the Dayton coaches’ attention to detail throughout the recruiting process helped them win over Weaver, who narrowed a long list of interested schools to Dayton, Arkansas and Central Florida.
» SEASON AHEAD: An early look at 2020-21 roster
“Elijah had the things he wanted,” Gillion said. “He wanted to play on the ball. Coach Grant did a hell of a job recruiting him. He was very thorough. He explained to him about his development. He explained how he would use him. His staff did an excellent job talking to me, Jordan and his parents. They were constantly in contact with all of us and were as up front and as transparent as possible.”
The COVID-19 crisis prevented Weaver from visiting Dayton’s campus or seeing the UD coaches in person, but Gillion said Weaver isn’t one to be swayed by buildings and facilities. Relationships are more important to him.
Dayton’s success last season also played a role in Weaver’s decision. The Flyers finished 29-2, won the Atlantic 10 Conference championship with an 18-0 mark and climbed to No. 3 in the Associated Press poll. It was the best regular season in school history. Dayton forward Obi Toppin also swept the major national basketball player of the year awards, while turning himself into a probable NBA lottery pick
“It definitely had an effect,” Gillion said, “because it goes along with coach Grant’s personality and what he’s done in terms of taking a guy like (Toppin) that’s a relative unknown and making him be a possible top-three pick. He kind of did the same thing at VCU. It shows he can go into any situation and make guys better. … It was big for Elijah to see that you can be successful at any place. It doesn’t have to be at the bluebloods.’”
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