On the road with the Dayton Flyers: Team meets the media in advance of Maui Invitational

ESPN’S Bill Walton with Dayton’s Jordy Tshimanga on Sunday at the Maui Invitational. Larry Hansgen/STAFF
ESPN’S Bill Walton with Dayton’s Jordy Tshimanga on Sunday at the Maui Invitational. Larry Hansgen/STAFF

Flyers play Georgia on Monday at 2:30 p.m.

Sunday was about basketball at the Maui Invitational. It began with the coaches press conferences.

» LARRY HANSGEN’S TRAVEL DIARY: Day 1 in MauiDay 2

Anthony Grant talked about the terrific following the Flyers have with them on the island. When asked what people will notice about Obi Toppin he quickly pointed to the passion with which Toppin approaches the game.

Toppin also had a one-on-one interview with Jay Bilas of ESPN. Keith Waleskowski and I spent some time with Bilas and Dan Schulman who will be working Monday’s game with him. They are both high on the Flyers to win that game, and to make some noise here on Maui.

The Maui Invitational championship trophy was on display, as was the MVP trophy. Keith pointed out how much bigger this year’s is, compared to the one he got in 2003. And the championship trophy is much nicer than the one that manager Dan Helm broke after the game.

» MORE ON MAUI: A ‘NCAA tournament’ vibe at Lahaina

Following the press conference, the coaches were all paired with a local middle school student in a free throw shooting contest. Each coach and each student shot 3 free throws. Anthony Grant made all three of his tosses, but his partner missed one. That was enough to keep him out of the finals, which was won by UCLA’s Mick Cronin.

The Flyers then had their first chance to practice at the Lahaina Civic Center, where Dayton is forever emblazoned on the championship banner. It was also a chance for Keith to see him name on the MVP banner for the first time.

Dayton worked on defense and offensive sets vs. what Georgia does, but there were two other highlights of the day.

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Bill Walton was there as he is also working games for ESPN. He told SID Doug Hauschild that he credits Flyer great Johnny Davis for the success he had in the NBA. Walton made it a point to talk to me and Keith, as well as Coach Grant and several players. He begins every conversation with “Hi, I’m Bill. What’s your name.” It reminded me of the character from Guardians of the Galaxy (I am Groot).

He was a true delight, and his preparation for the broadcast is very thorough.

» LOOKING BACK: Dayton vs. Georgia in 1973

The second highlight came when Coach Grant’s youngest son Makai dunked the basketball. Coach Grant was just proud father for a moment, with a grin brighter than the Hawaiian sunshine. The whole team went crazy as well.

The players have study table this afternoon, and then there is a banquet for all 8 teams and their coaches tonight.

I plan on getting in some pool and beach time, before joining a group of friends at the Old Lahaina Luau tonight.

Tomorrow its down to real business with Dayton meeting Georgia at 2:30 on WHIO Radio. Our coverage of the Flyers in Maui on radio, in print and online thanks to our friends at Premier Health.