Cover photo of Landers taken by Griffin Quinn
Sports Staff Writer
A native son of Dayton and senior guard for the Flyers men’s basketball team, Trey Landers has become the heart and soul of a team that is favored to make a deep tournament run.
Landers, who attended Wayne High School – where he won the Ohio Division I state championship in 2015 – doesn’t average 20 points per game like sophomore forward Obi Toppin or drill buzzer-beaters like junior guard Jalen Crutcher, but what he does could be even more necessary.
“He wears being a Daytonian with pride,” Dayton head coach Anthony Grant said. “He’s done a terrific job, one of the best leaders that I’ve been around. Trey’s about winning.”
Winning is exactly what the Flyers have been doing this season, as they have racked up 20 wins and are a No. 2 seed in Joe Lunardi’s Bracketology. Grant and Toppin both stated that the voice and leadership of Landers has been a key piece in taking them to the heights that they are reaching as March nears.
“Trey Landers is our glue guy,” Toppin said. “Everything Trey does on the court helps us tremendously just because he does the dirty work. He does the things nobody else on the court is gonna do, like getting 50-50 balls, the tough rebounds, all the things everybody doesn’t do, he does. And he’s an amazing leader on and off the court. He’s smart with everything he does, and he pushes everybody to be the best man they can be.
Sophomore guard Ibi Watson, who has taken off this season after sitting out last season following a transfer from Michigan, sees Landers as an example for the team to follow and a leader to learn from.
“He’s definitely the heart of our team,” sophomore guard Ibi Watson said. “He’s a very selfless guy, so he always wants to see the team succeed rather than just himself. That’s great for our team, and he’s also a vocal leader. He always knows where to be on the court, and he knows what to do. This year, he’s doing a great job of helping others understand where they’re supposed to be, and that is taking us to another level this year.”
Most teams have a guy that does things that don’t always show up on the stat sheet, and although Landers has scored 10 points or more 15 times this season and has racked up 130 rebounds through the first 22 games, his biggest contribution is what doesn’t show up on the stat sheet.
“He do all the little things,” Crutcher said. “We appreciate Trey because sometimes he don’t really care about scoring, he’d rather get another person a shot. We appreciate Trey because he do all the little things that don’t show up on the stat sheet. For sure he is the heart of this team, he’s the voice of this team, Trey does everything for us.”
One of the key parts of the Flyers’ success is their ability to swing the ball around, and Landers’ willingness to “get another person a shot” has led the Flyers to an average of 82.1 points per game.
Trey is the younger brother to Ohio State football player Robert and older brother to Tallice, who also played basketball at Wayne High School. Growing up with two brothers who are excellent athletes in their own regard, Trey said they played a lot of pick-up games of basketball and football.
Trey said they were always together, and the bond they shared was strengthened when their father was killed when Trey was eight.
“We were already always together,” he said. “But obviously, once my dad left, we knew we had to step up… we kind of just played the same role on each other as we did before. But it was to more of a different effect because there was no man in the house, so Robert just kind of took that role and I had to embrace that for both of us because I was looking up to him and my younger brother was looking up to both of us. So, it was a role we had to take in.”
Being a leader and playing the role that he is assigned to is something that was ingrained in him at an early age. Leadership and “playing your role” are two things that are a staple of post-game interviews with Grant. Those qualities directly translate to the basketball court, where Trey said he was able to channel the anger he faced after his father’s death by playing basketball.
Landers started “really liking” basketball about third or fourth grade. In the years that followed, his brothers and mom helped him control his anger and he learned to use his anger as fuel while on the court. Soon, because of this and help from his coaches, he realized he could stay level emotionally and play at a high level in his early years at Wayne.
“I would say my freshman year going into my sophomore year (of high school),” Landers said. “Playing AAU basketball, I started getting a lot of recruitment and everything… that’s when I really started to realize I could do something with the game, so I kind of fell in love with it more at that point when I knew I could get school paid for… that was big for me.”
Now at the University of Dayton, Landers said he plays with his heart on his sleeve and has used the experiences from his past and lessons learned from those around him to develop him into the leader that he is.
“(I’ve become a leader because of) my past experiences and me just being a vocal guy and voicing my opinion regardless of if I feel like someone is listening or not,” Landers said. “I’m going to voice my opinion and expect them to listen to me. With my teammates, they respect me, so that doesn’t really get to me much, but I would definitely just say from my past experiences.”
Landers said consistency has been tough for him, but the motivation to be there for his teammates has made being consistent one of his biggest goals this season.
With a stat line of 11.4 points, 5.9 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1 steal per game, Landers has become a consistent piece of the Flyers’ game plan every night they play. Many of those games have been at home, which is special for Landers. Landers said that everything about playing in front of the fans at UD Arena is special.
“Everything, man,” Landers said. “Everything. (The fans) show up every game… not just the home games. Obviously, it’s 13,000 at home, but whenever we go on the road there’s always some red and navy blue up in those stands, which is …. especially because I’m from here, but that stuff is important. It helps us with our confidence, when we have a point in the game when we go on a run or we go in a slump, the fans will start going crazy, and we’re like okay, we gotta pick our energy up. That stuff is important… a lot of good teams have really good fanbases. That’s big for us, and we cherish and appreciate that so much.”