The players who make up the Dayton Flyers’ biggest freshman class in years arrived on campus in May and June at different times and from four different states and one foreign country.
Jordan Pierce, Jalen Crutcher, Jordan Davis, Matej Svoboda and Obadiah Toppin landed in Dayton in that order in a one-month span. New NCAA rules allow basketball players to start training with their new program before enrolling in school, and Pierce, Crutcher and Davis took advantage. They were on campus for weeks before starting classes in the second summer session June 26.
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“For the freshmen,” Dayton coach Anthony Grant said, “this is a big transition: being away from home for the first time, learning a new staff, new teammates, new surroundings. The rule that allows those guys to get here early is really going to benefit them.”
Grant gave his first impressions of each of the players Thursday in an interview at his office at UD’s Cronin Center.
Credit: David Jablonski - Staff Writer
Credit: David Jablonski - Staff Writer
Pierce: The 7-foot center from Union Catholic High School in Scotch Plains, N.J., arrived at UD on May 27.
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“The big thing with Jordan is the first thing that hits you is his size,” Grant said. “He’s a big human being. He’s got good hands. He’s got good feet. That’s something that’s different for our program. Obviously, a guy like Steve (McElvene) presented that type of size as well. The thing I’ve been impressed with is Jordan has an appetite for improvement, for development. It’s ‘How can I get better? What can I do to get better?’ The big thing for us this summer is to get the body where it needs to be. He needs to get strong, slim down and be healthy as we approach the upcoming season. He’s learning terminology. He’s learning our system. He’s learning campus. He’s learning about his teammates. It’s been great having him pretty much the whole summer. It’ll help him be more ready once we’re in full swing.”
Crutcher: The 6-3 guard from Ridgeway High School in Memphis signed with Dayton on May 6 and arrived on campus on June 4.
“He’s a young man we were able to get late,” Grant said. “He’s excited to be here. For him, we talk about what he brings in terms of being able to score the basketball. He gives us a point guard. We’re thin in the backcourt. It’s good having a guy like that who can come in early and learn the system. He’s the opposite of Jordan Pierce. He came in needing to pick up weight, needing to get stronger. Being able to start that process early has been good. He’s done a really good job with our strength coach, understanding what he needs to eat.”
Davis: The 6-4 guard from Irmo, S.C., was the first member of the class of 2017 to commit to the Flyers last August. He was also the first to announce he was staying with Dayton after the departure of Archie Miller and the hiring of Grant. Davis arrived in mid-June.
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“Jordan is a quiet guy,” Grant said. “He’s got a great work ethic. He’s probably the most physically ready of the freshmen. He’s got a build on him. He’s a good athlete with a really good skill set. For him, it’s more about getting to know the routine, getting acclimated to a new staff, new teammates, being a college student athlete.”
Svoboda: The 6-7 forward from the Czech Republic landed in Dayton on June 22. Dayton didn't expect Svoboda to have any NCAA Clearinghouse issues, and he learned officially he had passed through the clearinghouse Thursday.
“He’s really excited to be here,” Grant said. “I’ve been impressed with his basketball IQ, his understanding of the game. You can look at his YouTube clips. He shoots the ball really well.”
Svoboda will be 21 by the time the season starts. He has played as an amateur on pro teams in his home country.
“It’s a great situation to have a guy who’s got the experience he has overseas,” Grant said. “He’s a little bit of an older guy. He understands his body, what to eat, the work ethic required to be a good player. He’s been a great addition.”
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Miller and his staff, mainly Tom Ostrom, recruited Svoboda, who recommitted to Dayton without having met Grant or any of the new coaches. Grant talked to Svoboda on the phone.
“I think when he came on his visit, he fell in love with Dayton, the atmosphere here,” Grant said. “He felt comfortable with just being a student here. He decided he wanted to play college basketball. When we connected again, it was just confirming, ‘All those things are still in place for you here. The change has been me and the staff. Give us a chance to get to know you and get to know us.’ He was sold on the university and the program.”
Toppin: The 6-9 forward from Ossining, N.Y., and Mount Zion Prep in Baltimore, Md., signed with Dayton on May 17 and flew to Dayton on June 22.
“His upside is really high,” Grant said. “He’s got a chance to be a really good player. He’s another guy who hasn’t been here as long as Jordan and Jalen, but just being here in the best thing for him. He has to get acclimated to what it is to be a college student athlete.”
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