By: Jonny Jessup – Staff Writer
It’s no secret the Dayton Flyers lacked size last season on the basketball court.
This season, the Flyers are growing. They now have four players over 6-foot-6 on the roster with first-years Sam Miller, Xeyrius Williams and Ryan Mikesell, along with redshirt first-year Steve McElvene. While the Flyers found success, going to the third round of the NCAA tournament playing “small ball” last season, the new addition of height will add some much needed depth to the team.
The new versatility of the added big-men takes some weight off the shoulders of veteran taller players like junior Kendall Pollard, redshirt junior Charles Cooke and senior Bobby Wehrli. Last season, Pollard and Wehrli took many of the taller match-ups in games, and having the quick aid of these new players off the bench will add some fresh legs when they’re needed.
Cooke, who is eligible to play this season after sitting out last year following his transfer from James Madison, understands the importance of having many players available down low.
“It gives us depth, number one,” Cooke said. “Last season we had seven players and we subbed in Bobby Wehrli, so that makes me pretty excited. Not saying I would play all 40 minutes if they weren’t there, but it gives us a lot of depth and those guys are pretty good.”
Wehrli pointed out some of the other positives, as well.
“It adds more options for us, there’s more guys that can come off the bench during games and really contribute,” Wehrli said. “Also, it helps us prepare a little bit better when we’re going to be playing guys who are six-[foot]-eight, six-[foot]-nine. It’s better to have people who are similar to that height in practice and get some good competition from them.”
While head coach Archie Miller believes these young athletes will make an impact on his Dayton team, he also knows it’s going to take some time until they are accustomed to college-level play.
“I think from Steve to Sam to Xeyrius, those three guys in general, they’re going to get a real wake up call as each week goes by how the game is really going to change for them,” Miller said. “And then they [will] get used to it. Once they get used to it you’ll see them grow, but freshmen are freshmen.”
Among these players is redshirt first-year Steve McElvene, also known around campus as Big Steve. Standing 6-foot-11, McElvene is the tallest player on the roster and will be able to show what he’s made of this season. The towering young player was a force to be reckoned with in high school, able to dominate the rim, but Miller knows the college level is a whole different setting.
“Steve is going to be one of those guys in particular, he’s a true center. He’s so used to just being around the rim and playing under the basket, he gravitates to that at times. It’s hard to do that in college,” Miller said.
While college is a completely different stage for McElvene, there’s no denying his height will help the Flyers play tremendously.
“As big as he is and how he’s able to get rim to rim and give us a presence [through] offensive rebounding, being around the basket, he should dominate the offensive glass for us and then continue to learn the system on offense,” Miller said. “We play a unique way and he has to see how that fits. We have to make him believe in how we play, moving him around and not just standing on the box.”
The Flyers proved to be a force to be reckoned with even without multiple big men at their disposal last season. Throw these new first-years into the mix, and the Flyers are a more complete basketball team. Time will tell if they can help the Flyers reach new heights during the 2015-16 season.
Photo of redshirt first-year Steve McElvene leaping toward the rim during the Red-Blue Scrimmage by Multimedia Editor Chris Santucci.