Dayton basketball coach Archie Miller worked his way up the ranks mainly through stops at major colleges. But his first full-time assistant job came at Western Kentucky, and what he learned in his lone season there did more to shape his recruiting philosophy than anything he picked up at those top-tier schools.
“My mentality has always been to get guys you’re not supposed to have,” he said. “(Hilltoppers coach) Darrin Horn taught me that.
“Darrin had spent some time at different levels, but his message to me at Western Kentucky was, ‘We’re going to beat teams who we’re currently beating and, in some cases, we have to go out there and beat an SEC opponent.’ You’re going to have to get guys who don’t belong in your league.”
Miller’s first recruiting target was Courtney Lee, who ended up signing with WKU and went on to become a first-round NBA draft choice. And to lead the Flyers to the pinnacle of the Atlantic 10, Miller knows he’ll need to land some prospects who may be getting some high-major attention.
“That’s been a mentality of mine the whole time in recruiting: Don’t settle,” he said. “You’re going to have to earn the right to get the best, but that doesn’t mean at all that you ever stop hunting.
“From our perspective, to take the next step and become a top-tier A-10 program, I look big picture and say we have to recruit the best players we can get who fit our mold and can play with anybody in the country. And that’s what we’re doing.”
The UD staff is concluding a frenetic period in the recruiting calendar today. A relatively new NCAA rule has given coaches back-to-back weekends in April to evaluate players at AAU events as well as three days of home visits with juniors in between.
Miller and assistants fanned out across the country in search of talent in the 2014 class, hitting Los Angeles, Dallas, Denver, Kansas City, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and other cities along the way.
Although he can’t speak about unsigned recruits, Miller said the Flyers’ primary focus is on frontcourt players. But they have plenty of company.
“This class has to bring a skill level and also has to bring size. That is imperative with us,” the second-year coach said “But ‘bigs’ are so hard to find in general because you have to project (how good they’ll be). And if you’re 6-8, 6-9, 6-10, everybody wants you. The gift of size is something — in some form or fashion over the next few years — we have to build that stable.”
The Flyers have three scholarships available, and sources have told the Dayton Daily News that one of those is being reserved for Matt Kavanaugh, a productive starting center as a junior in 2011-12 who was suspended last year for violating the school’s code of conduct. The UD administration is supportive of Kavanaugh’s return, according to sources.
Miller said nothing has been firmed up and that discussions with the 6-foot-10, 250-pound Centerville product wouldn’t take place until this week at the earliest. But he added, “You need bigs, I’ll leave it at that.”
The Flyers hit their goal of landing players deemed to be above the A-10 level in the 2013 class. Senior guards Dayshon “Scoochie” Smith of New York City and Kyle Davis of Chicago are both listed among Rivals.com’s top 150 recruits, Smith at 106 and Davis at 114.
Rounding out the class is forward Kendall Pollard, another inner-city Chicago player who, like Davis, is ranked among the top-10 recruits in Illinois.
The only other A-10 school that managed to pluck a player from the Rivals.com top 150 is Rhode Island.
“I love what we did coming off our first season. I think we (met) needs, and I believe we identified guys who could play at a lot of places,” Miller said. “The biggest thing with all three of these kids is they’re winners. And if they didn’t have a ranking by their name and I didn’t know they’re in the top 125, I would love them regardless.
“All three had outstanding years. If I had a dime for every time someone called me and said, ‘I can’t believe you got him,’ or, ‘What a steal’ … those are the types of things you want to hear.”
Schedule update: Miller said longtime rival Xavier likely won’t be on the schedule this year after moving to the new Big East, but he believes the series eventually will be resumed.
“I’m pretty sure we’re going to play the game. I don’t think we’ll play it this season, just due to them moving into a new conference with 18 conference games. But I do think that game is on the horizon,” he said. “I think both institutions want to play it … because it means a lot to a lot of people.”
Conference talk: Although the Flyers were disappointed in being passed over by the 10-team Big East, Miller beileves the conference will be looking to add more teams.
“I do think that league is a league that will go to 12 at some point in time,” he said. “Are we in the 12? I never will know (ahead of time). But I think there’s a good chance we’re right there.
“In my opinion, it’s, ‘Let’s get through this first wave and see how this thing works.’ It’s not just basketball. You’ve got to see how this works with women’s soccer and other things. They have a lot on their table. And TV runs the world. From a TV perspective, I don’t see any league stopping at eight or 10.”