Williams-Jeter excited about roster depth in Year 2 at Dayton

Flyers started practice Wednesday and open season in November at UConn

Dayton Flyers coach Tamika Williams-Jeter wore a T-shirt with a message on it to the first official preseason practice of the 2023-24 season on Wednesday. It read “1% better every day.”

Williams-Jeter enters her second season with that goal in mind for her players. Roster limitations made that a difficult goal to achieve a season ago. The Flyers lost their first 10 games and finished 7-21.

Williams-Jeter has a 14-player roster this season with five newcomers.

“It’s been great this summer just bringing in some new players who I’m really excited about,” Williams-Jeter said. “Just having some depth; we’re not one person short of not playing games this year. We had a great offseason.”

Dayton added one transfer, guard Ivy Wolf, of Miami University, and four freshmen. It returns six of its top seven scorers. Sydney Freeman, a transfer from Ball State who averaged 11.4 points per game in one season at Dayton, decided not to take advantage of her last year of eligibility after graduating.

“I’m excited about the players coming back,” Williams-Jeter said. “From a leadership standpoint, they’re stepping up and taking more ownership of what can happen with us this year, but also the new pieces coming in really catching on to stuff quickly is going to help.”

No one on the roster entered the transfer portal — a rarity for a program these days.

“My kids didn’t leave,” Williams-Jeter said. “It doesn’t matter where you are, win or lose, the nature of college sports right now is kids leave when things are not good for them.”

Jeter-Williams feels more comfortable in Year 2.

“Last year, you don’t know what you’re in for,” she said. “I think now I know a little bit what’s coming. I’m just in a different space with that. The players are really excited about today’s practice. They’ve been walking through the office all day. There’s a little bit of, ‘Let’s get after it.’ They’re just a different bunch of kids after going through what they went through last year — a little bit more resilient.”

Injuries hurt Dayton’s depth last season. Saija Cleveland missed her freshman season with a knee injury. Arianna Smith missed the first 10 games.

Jeter said the 2023-24 roster is healthy entering the preseason.

“We’re very good shape,” she said. “Our young kids are really good. They’re very talented. And they’re going to get stronger, faster, quicker and see the game slow down. Ivy Wolfe is a great addition for us. She gives us that combo guard who has played in big games. She makes plays and big shots. She’s a great passer, great defender.”

Dayton opens the season Nov. 8 against the program Williams-Jeter helped lead to two national championships: Connecticut. The game will be played at the XL Center in Hartford instead of the Gempel Pavilion, UConn’s on-campus arena in Storrs.

“That goes from 10,000 to 20,000 people,” Williams said. “Unless you play in the final four, you don’t see numbers like that.”

Williams said the experience of playing in front of a crowd like that against a number of future WNBA players will be good for her players. She’s also looking forward to her first matchup as a head coach against her former coach, Geno Auriemma.

“How many times do you get to coach against a hall of famer, who also happens to be my guy?” she said. “I’m just excited to be up there. I haven’t been back since 2003.”

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