Chris Johnson is Dayton's leading returning scorer. (Icon SMI)
By Robb Jacobson
Sunday, July 10, 2011
Last Season: 22-14 (7-9)
Key Losses: Chris Wright, Juwan Staten, Devin Searcy
Head Coach: Archie Miller
Projected Starting Lineup:
PG: Kevin Dillard 6-0 Jr.
SG: Paul Williams 6-4 Sr.
SF: Chris Johnson 6-6 Sr.
PF: Luke Fabrizius 6-9 Sr.
C: Josh Benson 6-9 Jr.
Key Reserves: Josh Parker, 6-0 Sr. PG, Alex Gavrilovic 6-9 Fr. PF, Matt Kavanaugh 6-9 Jr. PF
It took a career game from Charleston shooting guard Andrew Goudelock, but Chris Wright and the Dayton Flyers would see their season cut short to a team seeded three places lower than them in the NIT Tournament.
The wounds were still fresh when 2010 top recruit and starting point guard Juwan Staten abandoned the team for West Virginia. The second highest recruit from 2010 and shooting guard Brandon Spearman would follow suit immediately after.
As the ship was sinking, its captain and coach, Brian Gregory, jumped to the last remaining lifeboat and left his dying team for dead to pursue better hopes at Georgia Tech.
Cut to Sunday, May 8: Graduation Day. Senior center Devin Searcy and team star and power forward Chris Wright would part ways with UD as graduates, starting two eras: a bright one for the seniors, and a bleak one for the Flyers.
UD's new head coach, Archie Miller, has collected the reins. Miller, 32, comes to UD from the University of Arizona where as Associate Head Coach he helped the Wildcats to a 30-8 season that ended with an Elite Eight berth. Along with him, Miller brings Kevin Kuwik with 14 years of collegiate coaching and administrative experience and former Syracuse point guard Allen Griffin with 11 years experience in Division I basketball.
Enter Alex Gavrilovic, a 6-foot-9, 230-pound power forward from Strasbourg, France, a gold medalist in 2010 at the European championships in Zadar, Croatia with the French U-20 national team. “Alex is a true inside-out player who can play comfortably with his back to the basket and can shoot consistently beyond the college three-point line,” said Dan Barto, the head trainer at IMG, the academy that trained Gavrilovic this season to establish his eligibility.
Sounds like a promising recruit, right? What most people won't tell you is that Gavrilovic wasn't a starter for that award winning team. In fact, he barely played, accumulating a total of six minutes, zero points and one defensive rebound in the championship game.
What UD does have is experience. Four seniors head the team, including Chris Johnson, who has the ability to make any shot and grabbed six rebounds per game last season. Johnson is the team's leading returning scorer with 11.9 points per game while shooting 37.9 percent from 3-point range. He will be looked upon to carry the offensive load this season.
Like Johnson, Luke Fabrizius is primarily an outside shooter. But the Flyers will need both Johnson and Fabrizius to score more inside this season to open things up on the perimeter. Fabrizius, who averaged just 1.1 rebounds per game last season, also needs to improve his rebounding numbers dramatically or he will quickly be replaced in the lineup by Gavrilovic or Matt Kavanaugh.
Paul Williams is perhaps the team's only player who can consistently nail 15-to-18-foot jumpers. Williams, who serves as the team's best pure shooter, shot 41.8 percent from 3-point range last season.
The center spot has Josh Benson's name written all over it. He isn't used to playing as much as he is slotted for next season, but there are no viable alternatives. His vertical shoulders his potential to post fantastic rebound numbers in 2011 and his points per game should increase from an already respectable 5.6.
Kevin Dillard, a transfer from Southern Illinois, will likely step in as the team's starting point guard. The 6-foot junior averaged 12.3 points and 5.0 assists per game as a sophomore in 2009-10. With the addition of Dillard, it makes the loss of Staten not hurt as much. Backing Dillard up will be Josh Parker, who averaged 7.0 points and 2.6 assists per game last season.
With the slight exception of the power forward position, the entire team lacks any depth at all. The entire burden of expectation rests on the starting five's shoulders. It will be a tough task for Archie Miller in his first year as the Dayton head coach, but the Flyers are certainly capable of finishing in the upper echelon of the Atlantic 10 and reaching the NCAA tournament.