There is a lot of pressure on UD men’s basketball coach Anthony Grant (cover photo) to perform well this season.
Anthony Grant is poised to make a statement to Dayton fans entering his third season as head coach of the UD men’s basketball team.
“We know where we want to be as a team. Now it’s just a process of how do we get there… There’s a lot of different things, a lot of unknowns,” Grant told David Jablonski of the Dayton Daily News.
Grant isn’t new to the sort of pressure brought on by the start of a new basketball season. While playing at Dayton, he helped the team get to two NCAA tournaments, one of which resulted in a trip to the Elite Eight. During his senior year, he was selected as team captain and was eventually selected as team MVP.
After a short one-year stint in the now-folded U.S. Basketball League (USBL), Grant turned to coaching. He started as an assistant coach at a Florida high school, before moving on to the immensely successful Florida Gators as an assistant to head coach Billy Donovan. While coaching at Florida, Grant helped guide the squad to eight straight NCAA tournament trips, two resulting in spots in the final and one seeing them win it all. Grant also helped usher in a plethora of SEC regular season and tournament championships.
After a 10-year stint, and a 226-98 record at Florida, Grant was hired as head coach at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU). In his first year at VCU, Grant led the Rams to a school-record 28 wins and was named CAA Coach of the Year. The team won both the CAA regular season title as well as the conference tournament before going on to the NCAA tournament as an 11-seed. VCU upset the powerhouse blue-blood Duke Bluedevils in the opening round.
During Grant’s three years as VCU head coach, the team won the CAA regular season three times while capturing two CAA tournament championships. After his third season as VCU head coach, Grant was hired by the University of Alabama.
Grant’s time in Tuscaloosa didn’t reflect his previous success with other programs. In six seasons as the head coach of Alabama, the team only made it to the NCAA tournament one time, where they lost in the first round. After his sixth season, Grant was fired. His time at the U of A was highlighted by player suspensions and injuries.
After Alabama, Grant spent a few years in Oklahoma City with the Thunder. Alongside his old head coach Billy Donovan, he spent two years gaining NBA coaching experience before being hired as Dayton’s head coach in 2017.
His arrival came on the heels of Archie Miller’s six year, 139-63 record with the University of Dayton. To say that the team flourished during Miller’s time in Dayton would be an understatement. In 2014, Miller lead the Flyers to their first Sweet 16 in 30 years, but eventually fell in the Elite Eight to Florida. In his six years at UD, Miller made four NCAA tournaments and won two A-10 regular season titles.
In 2017, Miller accepted the head coaching spot at Indiana, which opened up the Dayton position for UD’s former MVP and senior captain.
“Anthony Grant is a proven winner with the highest integrity,” Dayton athletic director Neil Sullivan said after Grant’s hire in 2017. “He has successful experience in coaching, recruiting and playing basketball at an elite level. I welcome Anthony to our staff and look forward to partnering with him as we continue to aggressively pursue graduating student-athletes, winning conference championships and advancing in the NCAA Tournament.”
Dayton’s athletic director also had high praise for UD’s new hire and former player in a USA Today article.
“He is absolutely the right coach,” Sullivan said.
Since his hire, Grant has coached the Flyers to a 35-29 record in two seasons, while missing the NCAA tournament both years.
Grant understands the pressure that comes with being the head basketball coach at Dayton.
“It’s a great responsibility to take over at an institution that is so well-respected. Anyone you talk to in college basketball would say our program is a successful one, but the potential is here for so much more,” Grant said in an interview after his hiring.
After two forgettable years, Grant will have a lot to work with to start his third at the helm of the program.
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Forward Obi Toppin, a fan favorite within the Flyer Faithful, is returning for his redshirt sophomore season after dipping his toes into the draft pool. After workouts with a few NBA teams, he decided to return to Dayton for another year. With a bit of NBA guidance on things to work on, Toppin can be expected to have another great season after last year’s breakout campaign. Toppin brings his athleticism and size to the table, something that proved to be a problem for defenders last season, both inside and outside of the A10.
Grant think that Toppin has only scratched the surface of his potential.
“Physically, he still has room to improve, but from the neck up, understanding the game, understanding what he needs to be able to do to become the best version of himself, going through that process can only help him. I think he can improve all around,” Grant told the Dayton Daily News last summer.
Along with Toppin, returners include players like Ryan Mikesell, Trey Landers, Jhery Matos, Jalen Crutcher, and Dwayne Cohill. These players all bring leadership experience to the team, but they also bring other things to the table.
Mikesell and Landers are standouts due to their work ethic and leadership. They are willing to do what it takes to not only win, but to get better. As seniors, the team will look upon them when adversity hits.
Matos and Cohill are both returners from last year’s squad, however their role this year will be much different. Matos missed almost all of last season with a foot injury. Coaches and fans didn’t get to see as much of him as they would have liked to, but this year you can expect him to start off the year healthy.
Cohill, a freshman last lear, didn’t see the floor as much as other players because of his lack of seniority. His minutes did, however, increase from the beginning of the year to the end.
“He just needs to continue to get better and continue to understand he can be really special,” Grant said.
Jalen Crutcher, returning starting point guard and floor general, has only gotten better since he stepped foot on campus in 2017. As Grant’s first recruit during his time at Dayton, Crutcher has been entrusted in commanding the team on the court for the last two years. Grant thinks that his experience will help the team immensely during the 2019-20 season.
“Now as a junior, he’s one of the veterans in the league and a veteran in college basketball. He’s seen a lot of different things,” Grant said.
Other than returners, Grant will have an abundance of players to craft a team out of. Transfers like Ibi Watson (Michigan), Rodney Chatman (Chattanooga) and Jordy Tshmanga (Nebraska) will all be joining the roster after sitting out last year. Chase Johnson (Florida) transferred to UD in January, and there is one true freshman, Moulaye Sissoko.
There isn’t much to say about these players yet because of the lack of college experience that they have. Out of the crew, Chatman has the most college experience. While at Chattanooga, he averaged 32.3 minutes per game.
Coach Grant and the UD basketball team are in the midst of preparing for the start of the 2019-20 basketball season. After a long off season and some new additions to the team, Dayton fans have something to look forward to this winter.
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