UD Arena to host finals of $2 million winner-take-all basketball event

Former Flyer walk-ons instrutmental in bringing The Basketball Tournament’s championship week to Dayton in August

Representatives of The Basketball Tournament talked to Joey Gruden and Jeremiah Bonsu a year ago about playing games at UD Arena.

»LOOKING BACK: Red Scare advances in dramatic fashion

The former Dayton Flyers walk-ons, who were in the process of putting together the first team of UD alums for the $2 million winner-take-all event, knew the arena was undergoing renovations during the summer. They agreed to revisit the idea in 2020.

The Basketball Tournament’s interest in UD Arena grew when it saw Dayton fans flock to Capital University last summer to see the UD alumni team, the Red Scare, and on Tuesday, it announced it will play its final three rounds — seven games in all — at UD Arena.

Two quarterfinal games will be played at 7 and 9 p.m. and Aug. 6. The next two quarterfinals take place at the same times Aug. 7. The semifinals will be played at noon and 2 p.m. Aug. 8. The championship game will take place at 9 p.m. Aug. 11.

No one is more excited than Gruden and Bonsu, who return in their role as the Red Scare’s general managers.

“I think it’s awesome,” said Gruden, who’s in his second season as a graduate assistant coach on Chris Mack’s staff at Louisville. “We were trying to push for a regional, but they saw our support and they loved our fan base and our team and how hard we worked on it. They wanted us to be the final location for the tournament. Whether we win or not, I think they realized we’ll have a good turnout. For only being in it one year, I think it shows how much support the Flyers really do get. The tournament’s been around for a while now, and we get to host a championship. I know our guys are ecstatic, and I think it’ll give us extra motivation to get there and maybe even get a couple more.”

Eight regional winners will advance to the TBT’s Championship Week at UD Arena. The Red Scare played in the regional last summer at Capital University in Bexley. The closest regional this season will be played at the Covelli Center on Ohio State’s campus from July 23-26.

» MORE ON RED SCARE: How the team came together in 2019

The other regional sites are: Charleston Civic Center, W.Va., July 24-26; Las Vegas, Nev., Cox Pavilion, July 24-26; Jackson, Tenn., Oman Arena, July 24-26; Wichita State University, Kan., Koch Arena, July 30-Aug. 2; Syracuse, N.Y., SRC Arena, July 31-Aug. 2; Washington, D.C., Entertainment and Sports Arena, July 31-Aug. 2; and Winter Haven, Fla., Polk State, July 31-Aug. 2.

The Red Scare won two games last season before losing to Carmen’s Crew, a group of Ohio State alums, in the round of 16. The Dayton team has three early commitments from returning players: 2014 graduate Devin Oliver; 2017 graduate Kyle Davis; and 2018 graduate Darrell Davis.

“Last summer was a surreal experience being able to represent UD,” Oliver said in a press release. “The way the Flyer Faithful showed up in full force was insane but, not shocking because that’s what they do. To have the quarterfinals and championship coming to UD Arena just adds motivation for my teammates and I. It might even be able to bring more Flyer legends to the team. Imagine Flyers TBT playing in front of 13,000 with an opportunity to win $2 Million. We’re ready to run it back!”

The team also included former Dayton players Vee Sanford, Kendall Pollard, Kevin Dillard and one non-Dayton player, Ryan Bruns, who played at Ohio Northern. A former Flyer, Capital University coach Damon Goodwin, coached the team.

Bonsu, who's in his first season as a graduate assistant on Eric Musselman's staff at Arkansas, said he hopes they can get Goodwin to coach again, and he and Gruden are recruiting hard to put together and even better and deeper team. It will have to win three games to get the chance to play at UD Arena.

“We’re trying to put together a balanced team,” Bonsu said. “We also want people to know that not everyone is going to play and play equally. We want a team that’s going to be competitive.”

» RED SCARE PHOTOS: First round | Second round game | Third round

Bonsu compared last year's team to the 2015 Flyers, who had seven players and ran out of steam in the Atlantic 10 tournament final and then in the second round of the NCAA tournament. The Red Scare suffered a similar fate. It trailed 42-40 at halftime but lost 85-71 to Carmen's Crew, which won three more games in Chicago to win the tournament.

Bonsu said there’s one very popular former player from recent seasons who’s on the fence about playing. He brought up the idea of one current Flyer, Obi Toppin, helping coach the team if he chooses to leave for the NBA Draft after this season, and of course, two other current Flyers, seniors Ryan Mikesell and Trey Landers, would be valuable additions.

“If we do this right, this could almost be a program reunion,” Bonsu said. “We have to do our part and put it together. It starts with Joey and I putting together a team that is good and balanced and organized and then players doing their part by showing up in shape and playing yard and playing together. We know the fans will do their part.”

UD would not have been able to host this event before the three-year renovation project that wrapped up in the fall.

"We wouldn't have considered it, not without the climate control," said UD Arena Director Scott DeBolt said.

DeBolt said the university has been looking for events to host during the summer. He had watched The Basketball Tournament grow over the past several years and attended all three Red Scare games last year. UD decided to make a run at hosting a regional, DeBolt said, but with Ohio State's team winning the championship last year, TBT organizers wanted to reward Ohio State with a regional.

That's how Dayton ended up with the championship rounds. DeBolt said "Nobody does basketball as well as we do," and UD wants to turn it into a First Four-type event.

If the Red Scare advances to the championship week, DeBolt said fans "will be pounding down the doors," to see the former Flyers in action.

About the Author