Despite the irregular year, Dayton has built a historic 2021 recruiting class. Photo courtesy of Flyer News.
Sports Staff Writer
Head Coach Anthony Grant and the Dayton men’s basketball team have been igniting the recruiting trail since the abrupt halt of the 2019-20 season.
Since late August, Grant has welcomed to his team four huge commitments from players in the 2021 class.
The most notable of the three, DaRon Holmes, comes as UD’s top recruit in program history. Holmes, a 6-foot-8 power forward from Arizona, chose the Flyers over Arizona, Marquette and California.
During his first three seasons at Millennium High School in his home state of Arizona, Holmes established himself as one of the premier high school basketball players in the state. He was named Arizona Gatorade Player of the Year after his junior season with Millennium.
He currently ranks within the top-50 players on three recruiting sites. Holmes is 36th in the class of 2021 in the Rivals.com rankings, 46th in the ESPN 100 and 49th in the 247Sports.com rankings.
Holmes has been praised for his multi-dimensional game and work-ethic, something that he knows Coach Grant values as well. He took to Instagram and Twitter to announce his decision, and later wrote an exclusive blog with Sports Illustrated to explain his decision.
“Coach Grant really showed me how they could really elevate my game and put me in position to be successful. I know that I have to buy-in and work hard and that’s the only focus for me in going there,” Holmes said.
He will spend his senior year in Florida at Montverde Academy. The Arizona native will join a notable list of Montverde Men, such as NBA stars D’Angelo Russell, Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. In 2017, their basketball program was named the best basketball program of the decade by USA Today.
After a year at Montverde, Holmes will call UD his home.
“I’m just excited right now, it’s been a long process for me, but at the end of the day I just felt like the staff there and the culture was a perfect fit for me,” Holmes said.
Along with Holmes, Dayton recently landed three other highly ranked players in the class of 2021.
Kaleb Washington, a 6-foot-7 small forward from Georgia, joined after Holmes announced, when Dayton landed two four-stars in three days. He chose Dayton atop a list of 11 other schools.
The lanky forward has raw and unfilled potential, something that Dayton’s program proved they could capitalize on with Obi Toppin.
ESPN recruiting analyst Adam Finkelstein had high praise for Washington, but issued the same sentiment about tapping his potential.
“[Washington is] a jumbo 6-foot-7 wing with a ton of upside. Washington is long and athletic with good positional size and some signs of tremendous potential. But he’s not a finished product yet and needs to get more consistent. Dayton obviously has a strong recent track record of player development,” Finkelstein said.
Besides the back-to-back decisions in October, Malachi Smith, a 6-foot combo guard from The Bronx, New York, decided to become a Flyer in late August.
Smith is the fourth-best player in New York according to 247sports.com, and the guard fielded offers from schools such as Georgetown, Oklahoma State and Rutgers before choosing Dayton.
The addition of Smith brings welcome memories for the Flyer Faithful. He is the younger brother of former Dayton phenom Scoochie Smith. Scoochie, a name revered all over Dayton, helped Dayton to four straight NCAA tournament appearances before he graduated in 2017.
Regardless of his brother’s legacy in Dayton, Malachi told Dayton Daily News that the decision to join the Flyers was his own.
“They’re a good fit,” Malachi said. “I had a good feeling. Everybody was telling me you’re going to have that one school to keep in the back of your head. For me, it was Dayton. I trust coach (Anthony) Grant, the national coach of the year.”
Finally, 6-foot-9 power forward Mustapha Amzil announced his commitment to UD Monday. Amzil, originally from Finland, will spend the rest of the year at First Love Christian Academy in Washington, Penn.
Although he is classified as the 306th overall recruit in 2021 according to 247 Sports, Amzil will be filling the Flyers’ final scholarship position when he enrolls early in January. Sophomore forward Zimi Nwokeji did the same last year, and redshirted the season but gained valuable experience by practicing with the team.
It is no doubt that Coach Grant and Dayton’s success last season played a role in this year’s efficient recruiting trail, but Dayton knew that Grant’s recruiting was a strong suit of his from the jump. Coach Grant will look to continue the program’s recent recruiting success, and a productive 2020-21 season won’t hurt.
The strong class – besides Amzil – will join Dayton to start the 2021-22 season. The team will have a much different look without four-year starter Jalen Crutcher, fifth-year senior Ibi Watson, two of the team leaders and impact players. Both Rodney Chatman and Jordy Tshimanga will be out of eligibility as well. After the three 2021 commits, Dayton still has two open scholarships for the 2021-22 season.
The four youngsters could play a vital role right away. They will be accompanied by former four-star recruit Elijah Weaver, who is required to sit out this year after transferring from USC.
The Flyers now rank 20th in 247’s team rankings, ahead of powerhouse programs like Duke, Kansas, North Carolina, and fellow mid-major Gonzaga. Dayton is shaping up to be a consistent tournament squad and a nationally prominent team under Coach Grant, proving that his hiring was a sharp decision by UD.