Jordan Sibert summed up the afternoon when he walked out of the tunnel at UD Arena on Tuesday afternoon and said, “We home. We home.”
The 2015 UD graduate Sibert and six other former Dayton Flyers will enjoy their old college home this week and possibly deep into next week and even into next month depending on how far they advance in The Basketball Tournament. They will play for the Red Scare. The Dayton alumni team is the No. 3 seed in the Dayton Region and will play No. 6 seed CitiTeam at 3 p.m. Sunday at UD Arena in the first round.
The Red Scare will practice at the UD Rec Plex in the days ahead but will get some extra time at UD Arena, too. That’s an advantage it hopes pays off when the games begin. The team also practiced with new TBT basketballs that will be used in the games.
“This is huge,” said former Dayton walk-on Joey Gruden, who’s coaching the team for the third straight year. “I didn’t think we’d be able to (practice at the arena), but UD’s been great to us all summer, helping us out with that kind of stuff, so this is awesome. We get to use the balls and the arena. We’re excited.”
All but two players — Vee Sanford and Ryan Mikesell, who are expected to be with the team on Wednesday — were present for the first practice. Sibert, Scoochie Smith, Darrell Davis, Josh Cunningham and Trey Landers all practiced as did the three non-Flyers on the roster: former Ohio State Buckeyes Trevor Thompson and C.J. Walker, who both played for the team last year in Columbus; and former Wright State guard Joe Thomasson.
Jeremiah Bonsu, another former Dayton walk-on who formed the team with Gruden in 2019, joins Gruden on the coaching staff for the second straight year.
“We feel we’re 10 deep,” said Bonsu, who’s now the head video coordinator for the Houston Rockets. “We’ve got 10 guys that can play, 10 guys who have experience with different leagues all over the world, and obviously, we have a big pretty big-time addition in Scooch, who the fans have been clamoring for for some years now.”
Smith, a 2017 UD graduate who played for four NCAA tournament teams in his career, practiced at UD Arena for the first time in more than five years. He and Cunningham, a 2018 UD graduate, and Thomasson are the three players on the team who have not played in the TBT.
“It just brings back of a lot of memories,” Smith said. “I’ve been reminiscing about the four years with some of these guys that I’ve been through the mud with and just preparing for Sunday and trying to stay focused and not putting too much attention on that but enjoying the process.”
Asked what memories specifically came back, Smith said, “It’s like a collage. One of my favorite things here was the First Four game. I’m hoping the energy will be similar. I don’t think it’ll be as packed, but if the energy is the same, I think everything will be fine.”
Landers, a 2020 UD graduate, will play at UD Arena for the first time since the famous regular-season finale in 2020 when the Flyers capped a 29-2 season with a Senior Night victory against George Washington. That was the final game for Mikesell, too.
“Coming back here and walking down the ramp, it’s a great feeling to be back,” Landers said. “I’m just really excited to see the fans.”
The fans can see the players before Sunday at gatherings around the Dayton area: 7 p.m. Wednesday at Warped Wing Brewing Company in Springboro; 11:30 a.m. Thursday at Hunny Bee’s on Brown Street; 7:30 p.m. Thursday at Timothy’s Bar on Brown Street; 7 p.m. Friday at Dayton Dragons game at Day Air Ball Park; and 3:30 p.m. Saturday at Milano’s on Brown Street.
The Red Scare won two games before losing its third game in its first two TBT appearances. Last year, it won one game and then lost in the second round. Three victories would have sent it to the quarterfinals at UD Arena.
“The job didn’t get done last year,” Sibert said.
This year, the Red Scare will start the tournament at UD Arena and will play there as long as it’s alive. The Dayton Region winner advances to the quarterfinals, which will be held at UD Arena, which will also host the semifinals and championship game.
This is a different group. Sibert and Sanford, two of the key players on the Elite Eight team in 2014, will play together for the first time since that season. Landers played on limited minutes as a freshman when Smith was a senior, so they have played little together.
“We have a lot of different versatility,” Landers said. “You’ve got Joe coming in, who hadn’t played before, and bringing in Scooch is really big for us.”
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