Looking back at the first weekend of March, before the coronavirus pandemic changed everything, Shauna Green knows her Dayton Flyers women’s basketball program was fortunate. The Flyers finished the regular season. They got to play the full Atlantic 10 Conference tournament at UD Arena — and they walked off the court March 8 as champions.
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The loss of the NCAA tournament will always hurt, but if the sports world had shut down a week earlier, the pain would have been much worse.
“The seniors had been looking forward to this A-10 tournament being at home since it was at announced,” Green said Tuesday. “They had been talking about it for two years. It was their senior year, and we were playing at home and we were going to win it. You couldn’t have wrote it in a better way for them to win their last game they ever played at UD Arena. I can sleep a little better knowing no one can ever take that away from them.”
The cancellation of the NCAA tournament on March 12 began an uncertain offseason for the Flyers and every program in women’s basketball. Spring classes were conducted online, and it will be the same for both summer sessions. Like Dayton men’s coach Anthony Grant, Green doesn’t know if she’ll have her players on campus this summer. No one knows yet whether the university will reopen in August for the fall semester.
Even the status of next season is a question mark. For now, coaches are preparing as best they can.
“Obviously, this is the first time all of us have gone through this,” Green said. “We’re trying to figure it all out. We’ve been in pretty constant communication with our kids, and we’ve had a team meeting every Monday with our whole team with the seniors included just to touch base, and then we’d have another meeting on Wednesdays for just our returners. There was constant contact in terms of academics, and that was our biggest focus.”
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The seniors joined the team meeting for the final time Monday. Jayla Scaife, Julia Chandler, Brittany Ward, Jordan Wilmoth, Shakeela Fowler and Christine Szabo all graduated this month.
Erin Whalen and Araion Bradshaw also graduated but have one season of eligibility remaining and will return as grad students. The same goes for Jenna Giacone, who graduated in December.
Those three players combined to average 24.3 points per game. Whalen and Bradshaw started. Giacone saw the most minutes of any reserve (17.9 per game). One other stater, Kyla Whitehead, who averaged 7.2 points and a team-best 6.2 rebounds per game as as sophomore, also returns.
“I love our core that we have coming back,” Green said. “Kyla really flourished this year and as the year went on just continued to get better and better and better, and you kind of saw her skill set expand in the A-10 tournament”
One other key reserve returns. Mariah Perez averaged 7.8 minutes per game as a freshman. Two freshmen, Destiny Bohanon and Nadjy Tyler, missed last season with knee injuries. Green hopes to have them ready to go by the time the season begins. Dayton will also add Auburn transfer Maliya Perry, who joined the program in January, to the mix.
Dayton lost one player this spring to the transfer portal. Sophomore guard Ella Skeens, who saw limited minutes in 17 games, transferred to Ball State.
The program adds four incoming freshmen from the class of 2020: Capria Brown, a 5-foot-9 guard from Danville, Ill, who committed to Dayton in September; Bailee Adkins, a 5-foot-7 senior point guard at Huntington St. Joseph’s High School, who committed to Dayton in August; Mount Notre Dame’s Makira Cook, who also committed to Dayton in August, and Anna LeMaster, a guard from Frederick, Md., who committed in February 2019.
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All the players who will be on the 2020-21 roster are doing their best to stay in shape at home.
“We normally would give them their workout plan,” Green said. “Now it’s just a little bit different because not all of them have access to a hoop or a space where they can do anything. We’re trying to tailor each workout to each kid and what they have access to. That’s made it a little bit more challenging for us, but we’re all kind of in the same boat — everyone in the country. We’re all gonna be further behind than what we normally would be whenever we come back. So we’re just kind of taking it day by day. I have to think about every scenario. Do we come back? Do we not come back? What’s next? All those things are in my head, but I’m trying not to bog them down with worrying about that because really none of us can control any of this.”
Recruiting has continued this spring with online communication. Green joked that she’s all “Zoomed out,” referring to the virtual meetings application Zoom that has taken over the world since the COVID-19 crisis began.
“It’s actually nice,” she said. “We have an avenue to get in front of people to share our normal presentation of what we would do and be face to face instead of just over the phone. It’s not the same, obviously, as face to face, but it’s the next best thing. We just been going through it a lot with the 2021 class. It’s going to be different because we didn’t get out this spring to see some kids that we needed to really evaluate, and we may not get out in July.”
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