By: Katie Obear – Staff Writer
The Dayton women’s basketball team welcomed first-year forward Maddy Dennis to the team as part of the program’s four-player first-year class for the 2015-16 season.
Dennis, a native of Perth, in the western part of Australia, began playing basketball in high school at Mount Lawley. She was also selected to represent Australia internationally at the U-17 and U-19 levels.
After speaking with Dayton head coach Jim Jabir, Dennis said she decided to come to UD after watching some of the Flyers’ games online and liking how the team played.
Dennis ties as the tallest first-year on the team, joined by guard/forward Ashleigh Parkinson at 6-foot-2. She is also one of the taller eligible players on the team, only shorter than forward Andrijana Cvitkovic (6-foot-3) and centers Jodie Cornelie-Sigmundova (6-foot-4) and Saicha Grant-Allen (6-foot-5).
“I think she is a kid that plays like we play: She is skilled, she has size, she can shoot the ball—and our big guys can do that, that is what they do well,” Jabir said. “She is very talented.”
Dennis is not the only player on the roster to be recruited from outside of the United States. Cvitkovic and Sigmundova are from Kraljevica, Croatia and Strasbourg, France, respectively.
In the Red-Blue Scrimmage Oct. 24, Dennis along with first-year players Parkinson, Lauren Cannatelli and Abby Duffy totaled 19 points, with Dennis scoring eight.
“It was really cool playing with the girls in the Red-Blue Scrimmage because I’ve seen them play online, but I haven’t really seen a game properly,” Dennis said. “I’ve never been in a stadium where that many people are cheering for you.”
Working with these new players, she said, has been a rewarding experience for her so far as the team heads into this season, beginning with an exhibition against Gannon 7 p.m. Friday at UD Arena.
“In practice, I’m finding myself smiling and having a great time and that doesn’t happen a lot back home,” Dennis said. “With the freshmen, it’s really great—I have met three really good girls and everyone is so nice.”
With Australia being so far away, Dennis said the one thing she misses is her family, the beaches and the heat. Back home in Perth, she has two siblings, Dimity and Grayson.
Her favorite thing about the United States so far has been how different it is from home.
Balancing playing for a Division I basketball program on top of being a full-time student can be challenging. For Dennis, her entire day is scheduled from the time she wakes up until the end of the day.
“Most mornings, we get up and we have class or we have weights and training. After class, I go to practice and we taped and get ready for the two three-hours that we are training,” Dennis said. “Straight after practice, we do recovery and we go to study hall… It’s pretty jam-packed.”
While playing for the Flyers, Dennis plans to complete a major in geology.
Dennis will be participating in her first regular season collegiate game for UD against the Yale Bulldogs Friday, Nov. 13 at home.
Dayton finished second overall last season in the Atlantic 10 conference. Dennis said that her personal goal this season is to improve as much as she can. The team hopes to make it to the Final Four this season, after it came as close as the program has ever gotten last season, when it advanced to the Elite Eight before falling to eventual champion Connecticut, 91-70. The Flyers led the perennial power Huskies by one at halftime.
“Right now, I think her role is to learn and to play as hard as she can and keep developing,” Jabir said. “I think she will be in a really good situation to help us because I really believe in her, and I think she is going to be a really good player.”
Photo of first-year forward Maddy Dennis driving the lane at the Red-Blue Scrimmage by Multimedia Editor Chris Santucci.