The Dayton Flyers coaching staff hit the jackpot with a late bloomer from New York City two years ago, signing Obi Toppin, who had little recruiting interest before his post-graduate year at Mount Zion Academy.
Dayton hopes history repeats itself with the latest recruit to pick the program. Koby Brea, a 6-foot-5 guard from Monsignor Scanlan High School in the Bronx, N.Y, announced his verbal commitment to the Flyers on Tuesday with an Instagram video. He joins Mentor Lake Catholic senior guard Lukas Frazier, who announced his verbal commitment in June, in Dayton’s 2020 recruiting class.
“He’s got great size,” said Adam Berkowitz, who coached Brea with New Heights in the Under Armor Association. “He’s a big guard. He can really score. He can really shoot it. He’s still young. I think his best basketball is ahead of him. I think three years from now, he’s going to be really good.”
Brea, who turns 17 in November, does not show up on the recruiting rankings compiled by Rivals, 247Sports or ESPN. Toppin did not earn much love from those websites either. Now he’s a potential first-round draft pick.
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Brea had scholarship offers from Massachusetts, Robert Morris, Manhattan and Iona and interest from other programs, such as Seton Hall, but UD coaches made him a priority and earned his commitment. Some programs did not recruit him as hard, Brea’s coaches said, because they thought they had more time, figuring he would end up in the 2021 class.
The efforts of UD’s coaches made the biggest difference with Brea.
“What I liked best about Dayton was the staff,” Brea said Wednesday. “They’ve shown a lot of love and interest since they started recruiting me.”
That started a year ago with Dayton assistant coach Ricardo Greer visiting Brea. Greer is a New York City native like Brea, and they both come from families with Dominican Republic backgrounds. Greer played for the Dominican Republic national team from 1999-2009. Brea, who was born in the United States to parents from the Dominican Republic, played for the country’s U-18 national team this summer at the FIBA Tournament of the Americas.
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Greer has also known Brea’s father, Stephan, for a long time, Berkowitz said.
“(Greer) discovered me and informed me about the school a lot,” Brea said, “but would also talk to me constantly, showing his and the school’s interest in me. He is also Dominican, so to have a coach who comes from my country also means a lot because it brings us closer and makes us family.”
Dayton head coach Anthony Grant played a big part in the recruiting as well.
“I think Anthony really fell in love with the kid,” Berkowitz said, “and really the last couple of months they’ve flown into New York several times. They made the kid feel loved, so to speak, and he was a high priority for them. That made the difference.”
Brea’s dad accompanied him on his official visit to Dayton the weekend of Sept. 21. It was his only official visit. Scanlan head coach Dwayne Mitchell advised him to think about visiting another school but if he was that sure to not waste anyone’s time. That’s how Brea ending up making his decision so fast.
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Dayton had another Dominican Republic connection that helped when Brea visited campus. Jhery Matos, a redshirt junior guard, is a native of the country and also played junior college basketball in the Bronx at Monroe College. Brea met him on the visit and said he was like family.
“We had a lot of similarities,” Brea said, “and it’s nice to meet somebody that comes from my country and is playing basketball at a high level.”
Like Toppin, who was 6-5 as a senior at Ossining High School (N.Y.) and grew four inches in his post-graduate year, Brea also could add size in the years ahead. Mitchell, who has known Brea since he was 8, said he has a big upside because he’s so young. He said Brea could grow to 6-6, 6-7 or even 6-8. Because of his youth, Brea thought about attending a prep school next year.
“I told him the best thing for you is college,” Mitchell said. “There’s no prep school in the country that can compare to Dayton.”
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Scanlan assistant coach Marcus Matthews said Brea was under-recruited because of the uncertainty about what class he would end up in and also because he didn’t play varsity basketball until his junior year. He averaged 18 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists per game last season.
“No one expected him to blossom the way he did,” Matthews said. “To go from playing JV to varsity and becoming an all-state player in one year, a lot of schools didn’t know what to expect.”
Matthews said Dayton is getting “a multi-purpose player with uncapped potential, a player who comes from good stock, a good family, a well-grounded kid. The sky’s the limit with him.”
There is a chance Brea will redshirt as a freshman at Dayton. The Flyers will have a veteran team in the 2020-21 season with potentially five seniors. Berkowitz talked to Brea recently about the redshirt possibility.
“I said, ‘Are you going to redshirt?’ He said, ‘We’re going to see,’” Berkowitz said. “I think it would be great for him, especially because he’s so young and also because he’s got to get stronger and they’re going to have a good team and a veteran team. I’m just a proponent of it. You get to take college classes. You get an extra year to graduate or even work on your master’s for free. You work with the strength and conditioning coach. You acclimate to the system and how Anthony likes to run practice. It’s a great thing for a lot of reasons. For Koby, it would make a lot of sense, but by the same token, if he goes in the summer and does really well and he’s going to go play significant minutes, then go do that.”
It will be a decision that wouldn’t be made until next fall.
“In college basketball, you can’t make long-term decisions,” Berkowitz said. “With transfers and this and that, I don’t know how coaches know what their roster is.”
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