Red Scare team prepares for TBT, Big X matchup

Trey Landers, an important part of the historic 2019-20 UD men’s basketball season, is part of a Red Scare team that looks poised to do well in TBT. Photo courtesy of Griffin Quinn, Flyer News.

Peter Burtnett
Sports Editor

Live basketball is back! Red Scare, a team made up mostly of recent UD basketball players, starts play in the Round of 16 in The Basketball Tournament Wednesday against Big X.

With the matchup scheduled for 2 p.m. and televised on ESPN, Flyer basketball fans will be able to watch former Flyers in action, highlighted by Ryan Mikesell and Trey Landers, who were the “glue guys” in the historic 2019-20 UD men’s basketball season.

Among other players for the team are former UD players Kyle and Darrell Davis and Devin Oliver, along with Jalen Robinson, who hopes to “rewrite the script” after being an important part of the 2014 Elite Eight team prior to being dismissed from UD for his involvement in burglaries. He has since issued two apologies; first, in a public apology in 2016, and again in a video shared by the Red Scare twitter.

Joining the former Flyers are Louisville guard Ryan McMahon and Ohio State center Trevor Thompson.

The team GM and coach is Joey Gruden, who spoke to media via Zoom about the team’s preparations, and was followed by Landers, Mikesell and Oliver.

“This year was different than past years, obviously,” Gruden said. “Calling up the same guys (Oliver, both Davis players) as last year. A couple couldn’t do it (Kendall Pollard and Dyshawn Pierre), tried to get a couple new guys from the Dayton past, some of the bigger names, (it’s) just hard with older guys getting away from their families for this long. But we’ve got some young guys, too, like Ryan Mikesell and Trey Landers, just coming off a good season. We got a good squad, we got a couple grad transfers, we like to call them, in Ryan McMahon from Louisville and big Trevor Thompson from Ohio State. So we’ve got good depth this year, and we’re excited to get going.”

Gruden highlighted the addition of Thompson as important for additional height for the team, with 7’0″ being beneficial for a team that previous topped out at 6’9″.

After last year’s appearance in the Round of 16 being an 85-71 loss to Carmen’s Crew (Ohio State alumni and eventual champions), Gruden hopes the team can take the next step and make it even further.

“Last year was kinda like our first test run, honestly,” Gruden said. “And we did much better than expected. Obviously, we would like to go a little bit further this year, but we do have more depth this year, which I’m excited about. Last year, we had about six guys, seven guys, this year we got a good, solid eight, nine if mandatory, but we got some good depth and I’m excited to get going and I think we got a good team.”

Part of that depth is Mikesell, a “glue guy” in the Flyers’ historic season, who said he is “super excited” to get back to playing competitive basketball, as his last competitive game was Senior Night.

“To get an opportunity to represent the university again is awesome, and I’m ready to play,” Mikesell said. “I’m just hungry to play again, honestly. Senior night, like I said, was the last time, and kinda leaves a bitter taste in your mouth with the season we had, and to get an opportunity to play out there again is really the only thing I could wish for.”

Going into their matchup against Big X, which is made up mainly of former Big Ten basketball players, Mikesell has played against a member of Big X, former Saint Louis guard Javon Bess.

“I know some of the younger guys I have played against,” Mikesell said. “I played (Bess) a few times. (Michigan State center) Nick Ward, I played against him in AAU, open gyms, stuff like that. So, they’re a really good team, really physical, Nick’s their guy inside, their anchor, so he’s gonna be a hotspot for them. I’m excited, it’s gonna be a physical game, it’s gonna be about toughness, hopefully we can go out there and play hard against those guys and hopefully get a win.”

Oliver, who was a senior and leader for the 2013-14 UD team that made a special run to the Elite Eight, also said he was very excited to get back to playing.

“I think a lot of the guys here, just having an opportunity to play basketball again, to be back with Kyle, Darrell, and to have new guys like Ryan, Trey and Jalen back, who’s another one of my good friends, it’s good, we’re excited to play,” Oliver said.

Oliver said the team was catching wind in the first practice, but quickly adjusted and have practiced competitively since and developed a good chemistry. He also said the team watched Big X’s opening matchup against D2 (79-74 win).

An important piece of Red Scare is Landers, who was instrumental in the Flyers’ success in 2019-20 and exemplified the toughness of Dayton following a tough summer. He followed Oliver speaking to media and said it’s a “great feeling” to get back to playing and represent Dayton.

“I’m a Dayton kid, so I’m it’s very important to me to represent not only my university, but also my city,” Landers said. “So I’m very excited.”

The desire to play for the Red Scare began last year when Landers said he recent a standing ovation from Flyer fans when we arrived at last year’s game at Capital University (against Carmen’s Crew).

“When I walked into their game, I got a standing ovation from Flyer nation,” Landers said with a smile. “That was very heartwarming for me, so I told Joey… if I can, next year can I please play. So the opportunity came when my season was over, so I’m excited to get to it.”

With hopes to begin a professional career, Landers sees this tournament as an opportunity to gain more exposure and has spent his time off with his brother, former Ohio State football player Robert, to keep working out and stay motivated.

For Landers and four-year teammate Mikesell, this tournament is an opportunity to potentially make up for missing out on the cancelled NCAA Tournament, where the Flyers were likely to be a No. 1 seed for the first time ever and favored to make an Elite Eight run.

“Yeah, you could say that (it’s the tournament we didn’t get),” Landers said. “Obviously, it’s a little different. I’m just more blessed to be able to play with the older guys who paved the way for me, so you know, it’s been really fun being around those guys and catching up on times that we kinda never had. I went to Darrell and Kyle my freshmen year, and obviously I’ve been with Ryan for a decent amount of years, so it’s exciting to just pick those guys’ brains a little bit and be on the court with those guys.”

For each of the players on the team, the opportunity to get back to playing is special, and tip-off against Big X Wednesday afternoon certainly can’t come soon enough.