Jalen Crutcher poses with his parents, Shelia and Greg Crutcher, and Dayton coaches Anthony Grant, left, and James Kane, right, at UD Arena. Contributed photo

Scoochie Smith helped sell Dayton Flyers to new recruit

“He was telling me about the fans,” Crutcher said Monday, “and how he loves the fans and how the fans come out. He just said I’m going to love it.”

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Smith, who graduated Sunday with the four other Dayton seniors, might have also told Crutcher he has big shoes to fill. That would be true. Smith finished his career as one of Dayton’s all-time great point guards. Crutcher will never play with Smith at UD, but their paths crossed at the right time.

“He just told me to play my game,” Crutcher said.

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Crutcher arrived in Dayton on Thursday with his parents, toured campus on Friday and signed with Dayton on Saturday before flying home to Memphis.

Crutcher was supposed to visit Florida Gulf Coast next weekend, but he didn’t need any more time to make up his mind. It helped that he already had some familiarity with one Dayton coach. Assistant James Kane recruited Crutcher when he was at Murray State.

Jalen Crutcher poses with his parents, Shelia and Greg Crutcher, and Dayton coaches Anthony Grant, left, and James Kane, right, at UD Arena. Contributed photo
Photo: Staff Writer

“Friday night, I was telling my mom, ‘I think this is it,’” Crutcher said. “Saturday morning came, and she was like, ‘If you want to make this decision, we’re behind you.’”

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Crutcher remembers watching Dayton play in the NCAA tournament when it lost to Wichita State in March. He first heard from Dayton coaches before an AAU event in Atlanta, the adidas Uprising, which was held April 28-30. He averaged 19.3 points, 2.8 rebounds and 2.5 assists in five games at the event for M33M Elite.

Crutcher learned much more about Dayton during his visit. Coach Anthony Grant told him about his NBA experiences and what it was like to coach Russell Westbrook. He heard about Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo’s visit to his brother Kostas, a Dayton freshman, on campus on April 29.

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Grant and his assistants showed Crutcher film of the Flyers. Crutcher’s signing was as special for the coaches as it was for him.

“It’s exciting because I’m (Grant’s) first recruit,” Crutcher said.

Crutcher, a three-star recruit, according to Rivals.com, is the fourth member of Dayton’s 2017 class. Jordan Davis, a 6-foot-4 guard from Irmo, S.C., and Jordan Pierce, a 7-0 center from Scotch Plains, N.J., signed with Dayton in the fall and then renewed their commitments when Grant visited them in April. Matej Svoboda, a 6-7 forward from the Czech Republic, signed with Dayton on May 1.

Crutcher originally signed with Chattanooga. When coach Matt McCall left to coach at Massachusetts, Crutcher asked for a release from his letter of intent.

“It was stressful,” Crutcher said. “Me and my mom got into it a lot sometimes during the process.”

Now that the recruiting process is over, Crutcher can enjoy his final days of high school. He’ll enroll at UD for the second summer session. Classes begin June 24.

Asked to describe what kind of player he is, Crutcher said, “My strengths are getting my teammates involved, shooting the ball and scoring with both hands and my on-the-ball defense.”

Crutcher’s not sure where he got his talent.

“My mom says I got it from her side,” he said. “My dad says I got it from his side. My mom played basketball. My uncle on my mom’s side played. I think I’m the first to play on a college scholarship.”

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