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Learning to fly
Can Dayton handle the expectations coming this season? Plus, Butler loses a big man, Kentucky may have locked up another 5-star prospect, and much more.
Happy Big Ten media day, which is basically just an excuse to read about college basketball all day as coaches and players serve up answers and whet your appetite for a season that’s still weeks away. It’s just a way to prepare for what’s coming.
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Let’s get to the news.
1. Can Dayton deliver?
And 2022-23? Maybe it’s “what could be?”
Five starters and 89 percent of the total minutes return from a 24-11 squad that just missed the NCAA Tournament. All-League players DaRon Holmes and Malachi Smith will garner consideration for national awards. The Flyers are the Atlantic 10 favorite by most preseason publications (including The Almanac, which also slots them at No. 24 overall), and will probably get the same treatment by A-10 media during Thursday’s media day.
That could be a problem for some squads. As noted by the Dayton Daily News recently, the 2019-20 squad didn’t get this kind of attention. But this season’s Flyers? No problem at all.
“I said this a few years ago with the team we had in 2019-20, the camaraderie, the way they get along, the way they enjoy each other, it’s special,” coach Anthony Grant told the paper. “They compete, and you want to see guys get after each other, but they genuinely enjoy each other’s company.”
That’ll be key throughout the season. Their schedule is the right mix of tune-ups, toss-ups (games against Wyoming and Virginia Tech will serve as bellwethers) and true tests (the Battle 4 Atlantis could produce a third game in four seasons against Kansas; they’re 1-1 thus far).
And, as The Almanac notes, assuming Dayton cuts down on turnovers and improves its free-throw shooting, a deep NCAA Tournament run is possible.
If the Flyers have their way, it won’t be “what could be,” but “what will be.”
2. Butler loses some interior bite
Butler will be a little smaller to start the season, and maybe longer.
Jalen Thomas is being treated for a pulmonary embolism, the school announced Monday. He’s expected to make a full recovery but probably won’t return until Big East play begins in late December.
The Georgia State transfer averaged 7.9 points, 6.2 rebounds and 1.7 blocks a game last season, but made a lasting impression with his 12-point, nine-rebound performance against Gonzaga in the NCAA Tournament.
He’s expected to play a significant role off the bench for the Bulldogs, who also brought in big man Manny Bates. The two would function as interior defensive anchors the program rarely sees — and sorely needs — during Big East play.
3. Kentucky zeroing in on DJ Wagner?
Nike announced a slew of NIL deals Monday, including endorsements with Bronny James and DJ Wagner, both coveted recruits in the class of 2023.
Given Bronny’s family name, it was only a matter of time before Nike signed him. Perhaps more interesting is the move with Wagner, who’s seen as the top recruit in his class and is reportedly deciding between Kentucky and Louisville as his college destination. Louisville is an Adidas school. Kentucky is a Nike school.
And it doesn’t sound like a one-year deal.
FWIW, this isn’t the first Nike connection for Wagner, who previously appeared in a campaign for NOCTA, a Drake-Nike collaboration. Regardless, things sure seem to be trending in Kentucky’s way.
Also in recruiting news:
USC snagged Arrinten Page, a 4-star forward in the class of 2023. Also important — he’s high school teammates with Isaiah Collier, a top-5 prospect in the class who’s also considering the Trojans.
Memphis added 3-star guard Ryan Forrest as part of its 2023 class.
Miles Rose is headed to St. Bonaventure. The 6-5 guard is its first 2023 commit.
Penn added Tyler Perkins, a 6-2 combo guard from Maryland.
4. Tall tales? Nah, just life as an assistant
Need a respite from preview content? This Athletic story is a delightful series of anecdotes from various coaches — such as Tom Izzo, John Calipari and Leonard Hamilton — about some of the hardscrabble lessons learned coming up through the coaching ranks.
Some of the stories are what you’d expect (no money, scraping by for food), but this one from Kelvin Sampson takes the cake when it comes to making due.
While at Montana Tech, Sampson’s NAIA team used a 1968 bus that’d seen better days. From the story:
The bus, though, served its purpose … except when it didn’t. On the way back from a three-game trip to Canada — against the University of Lethbridge Pronghorns, the Calgary 88s of the World Basketball League and the University of Alberta Pandas (yes, Kelvin has committed the nicknames to memory) — someone opened the door in the middle of a snowstorm. With winds whipping upwards of 60 mph the thing came straight off its hinges. With 700 miles to cover and no budget for repairs, the team dispatched the two smallest players outside, arming them with a roll of duct tape. The pair taped the team in. “It had to be the smallest guy because the only way he could get back in was to squeeze through the window,’’ Kelvin says. At pit stops, the smaller players squished back out for drinks and provisions, returning with bottles for the guys who were stuck on the bus “to do their number one.’’
The best part? They still used the bus even after that trip! It’s a terrific article. Read the rest here.
5. 60 elite players, all under one roof
Is the USA Basketball minicamp the concentrated collection of pure hoops talent anywhere in the country? I’ll leave that for Twitter.
But I do know that these two groups of players in the classes of 2023-2026 represent many of the future All-Americans and NBA All-Stars for the latter half of this decade and beyond.
As for the players who stood out, I’ll leave that to the scouts in attendance.
Jamie Shaw says future Duke guard Jared McCain was the MVP of the weekend.
Cameron Boozer, perhaps the top 2025 player, delivered — and also says college remains his focus, not the pros.
THE FAST BREAK
Links as you make plans to earn your own $40 million buyout.
Illinois junior Terrence Shannon wakes up at 4:20 am and hits the court shortly thereafter with the goal of making 1,000 shots a day.
Sneak a peek at Providence’s revamped home court.
Speaking of Dayton, maybe their 100-year-old fan — who’s been a season-ticket holder for 72 years — can see a Final Four run.
Big men are back in college basketball. Know what else is back? Actual conversations. See why Blink Date’s focus on conversation ensures meaningful connections, not just countless swipes.
FLOYD STREET’S FINEST
We’ve been counting down the best programs of this century on the Field of 68’s social media accounts — man, people have strong feelings about these teams — and coming in at No. 24 was the 2013 national champion Louisville Cardinals.
Seems like the perfect time to highlight a recent interview Floyd Street’s Finest had with Peyton Siva, the point guard of that roster. He recently retired from professional basketball and is now exploring what’s next. Have a watch.
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