Dayton Flyers coach Anthony Grant focused on the positives after the second losing season of his career and the first losing season for his alma mater in 12 years.
Dayton lost 77-72 to Virginia Commonwealth in the second round of the Atlantic 10 tournament Thursday at Capital One Arena. It finished the season 14-17. What the Flyers didn’t do, however, was collapse in the second half when VCU’s lead grew to double digits. That had happened in recent road games against Rhode Island, George Mason and La Salle.
The Flyers showed fight in their final game, even if the result was the same. They showed once again an inability to win away from home. They were 2-13 outside UD Arena.
“I thought our guys battled,” Grant said. “Give VCU credit. They made enough plays at the end of the game to be able to close it out, but really proud of the effort that we got today, all year long. Just appreciative of the sacrifices that our guys made over the course of the year, and this is an opportunity for us to learn and grow from this experience.”
Grant’s first offseason as Dayton coach could be as interesting as the last four months. A number of players have decisions to make about their future. The big questions for the Flyers are:
• Will junior forward Xeyrius Williams return for his senior year after a season that ended with him not attending home or away games?
• Will freshman center Jordan Pierce stay with the team? He appeared in two games and played a total of four minutes. That brief playing time cost him the possibility of redshirting. He also stopped traveling with the team to away games.
• Will junior point John Crosby, who lost his starting job to freshman Jalen Crutcher early in the season, decide to finish his career elsewhere? He didn’t earn a minute of playing time against VCU, even when Crutcher picked up his fourth foul in the second half.
In 2018-19, the transfer question applies to not only those players but almost everyone on the roster. Hundreds of players across will be on the move this spring. Dayton hasn’t lost a transfer since 2014 when Khari Price and Alex Gavrilovic left. The only scholarship player Dayton loses to graduation is senior Darrell Davis, who has talked to his teammates who have seen little playing time.
“I tell the guys to buy in,” Davis said. “All you’ve got to do is buy in. Coach Grant is a loyal guy. He’s going to play you. Don’t worry about if you’re not playing or not. A guy like John, even though he’s not playing that much, he’s a good kid. He cheers us on — on and off the court — even when he’s not playing. He keeps guys ready for the next play. I don’t see nobody transferring, but if they do, it’s what they do with their lifestyle, their livelihood. I feel like if they stay, we have a good chance of winning next year.”
Even if no one leaves, Dayton’s lineup and rotation will look different. It adds freshman Dwayne Cohill, a 6-foot-2 guard from Holy Name High School in Parma Heights. Cohill signed with Dayton in November. Jhery Matos, a 6-6 guard from Monroe Community College, will also join the program. He verbally committed to Dayton in February and has two years of eligibility remaining.
Ryan Mikesell, a 6-7 forward, will return to action as a redshirt junior after undergoing offseason hip surgeries and missing this season. Obadiah Toppin, a 6-9 forward, will make his Dayton debut after sitting out this season as an academic redshirt.
In a post to Instagram on Thursday, Toppin wrote he learned a lot this season in practice and said he will miss Davis and walk-on senior Joey Gruden.
“I wish I could have played with ya,” Toppin said. “But now the time has come, the moment I’ve been waiting for my whole life. I’m finally going to be able to play with my brothers!!”