It’s rare to hear anyone say anything interesting in regards to the Atlantic 10 Conference preseason poll. Most coaches and players, whether they’re picked first or last, will claim the poll doesn’t matter.
That’s what made Dayton Flyers guard Elijah Weaver’s comments stand out so much Thursday. Speaking alongside teammate Toumani Camera during the A-10′s virtual media days, which aired on ESPN+, Weaver had this to say when he was asked about Dayton being picked fifth in a vote of the 14 league coaches and 14 select media members.
“I just want to say it’s disrespectful,” said Weaver, the only scholarship player on Dayton’s roster entering his fourth season of college basketball. “I feel like we’re better than the four other teams above us. I feel it’s disrespectful, and it’s motivating.”
This is the lowest Dayton has ranked in the preseason poll since the 2018-19 season when it was picked to finish sixth and placed third.
“We’re kind of underrated,” said Camara, a transfer from Georgia who’s among seven newcomers on the roster. “That’s what we want to be. We just have to prove to people what we’re capable of doing and be confident. We need to be confident in ourselves no matter how young we are. We’re going to have a great season for sure.”
St. Bonaventure, the defending regular-season and tournament champion, was a unanimous favorite in the preseason poll, receiving all 28 first-place votes.
“When you look at the fact that St. Bonaventure won the league last year,” Grant said, “and made the NCAA Tournament and has all five starters back, certainly the job that coach (Mark) Schmidt and his staff have done and the caliber of talent they have, I think they’re a top-25 team in the country. You have to you have to respect where they are and what they’ve done and the way they’ve represented their program and our conference.”
Despite the outside expectations for a team with only two players, Weaver and Camara, who have played more than one season of college basketball, the goals remain the same for Dayton. Compete for a conference championship, which it last won with an 18-0 record in 2020, and play in the NCAA tournament, which it hasn’t done since 2017 — a drought that would be much shorter if not for the cancellation of the 2020 tournament.
“We’re always going to try to put ourselves in position to try to compete for championships,” Grant said. “That’s the expectation here. That’s what our goals are every year. We’re working towards trying to become the best version of ourselves.”
NOTES: Forward Zimi Nwokeji and Malachi Smith have both returned to practice, Grant said. Neither participated in the Dayton Basketball Fan Fest on Oct. 16. Smith said had an ankle injury. Nwokeji said he had a heel issue.
“Malachi has been back two days,” Grant said. “He was out for about a six-week period. He’s still trying to get his legs underneath him and still trying to get familiar with everything he missed, both offensively and defensively, but he’s he’s coming along well. Zimi returned, I think, last Friday. He’s going through that same process. He’s had some some minor things that have kept him out most of the preseason as well. Both of those guys right now are just trying to get their wind back and trying to get re-familiarized with what we’re doing on the court, but so far, so good.”
• Saint Louis senior guard Javonte Perkins was named to the A-10 preseason first team Wednesday, one day after he suffered a season-ending ACL injury. Saint Louis announced Wednesday Perkins will miss the 2021-22 season. He announced last season he would return this season to take advantage of the extra year of eligibility the NCAA gave to all athletes because of the pandemic. He led the Billikens with 17.1 points per game last season.
“We are devastated for Javonte given the hard work he put in this summer to get ready for another elite season,” Saint Louis coach Travis Ford said in a statement. “Because of that dedication and the fact that he is in the best shape of his life, I have no doubt that Javonte will come back just as strong after his recovery. He has many years of high-level basketball in his future, and we will do whatever it takes to support him moving forward.”
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