Coach Anthony Grant has brought big changes and small changes to Dayton Flyers basketball — plus at least one new tradition that takes place behind the scenes.
The Dayton basketball Twitter account shared a photo Thursday, a day before the season opener against Ball State, of the coaches and players linking hands in a large circle around the Dayton logo at center court at UD Arena.
“We were saying a prayer,” sophomore guard Trey Landers said. “It’s a ritual coach Grant does. It’s a great thing for us.”
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Grant also asks the players at practices and games, Landers said, to speak out about what they are thankful for that day. Landers said the tradition is called, “Let us be grateful.”
“He’s a big spiritual guy,” Landers said. “A lot of guys on the team are, so I feel it’s a good thing for us.”
The Flyers have much to be grateful for this week. They beat Ball State 78-77 on a last-second shot by Josh Cunningham. They head to South Carolina this week to play in the Charleston Classic, facing Hofstra in the first round at 7:30 p.m. Thursday. Hofstra improved to 2-0 by beating Kennesaw State 75-57 on Monday.
Dayton’s first victory was still a big topic when Grant, Landers and point guard John Crosby met with the media before practice Monday.
“We’re definitely thankful for that win,” Crosby said. “It could have went either way.”
Landers and Crosby made their first career starts Friday and performed well. Dayton outscored Ball State by eight points (58-50) when Crosby was on the court. His plus-minus stat was second only to Josh Cunningham (68-57). Dayton had a 45-43 advantage when Landers was in the game.
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Landers scored 27 points and played 52 minutes all of last season. He’ll quickly surpass those totals if he performs as he did Friday. He recorded career highs in points (8), rebounds (7) and minutes (22).
That’s why Landers had a good reason to say Monday he’s thankful for everything.
“I’m thankful for my teammates, my coaches,” Landers said. “I’m thankful for another day, another opportunity. I’m thankful to be on the court with these guys and be closer to them. I’m thankful for my family and my friends.”
Notes: Dayton received one vote in the Associated Press poll this week. It is one of 49 teams to receive at least one vote, and it’s the only team playing in the Charleston Classic getting a vote. Chris Dachille, of WBAL-TV in Baltimore, voted the Flyers 21st in the preseason poll and 24th this week. … Dayton freshman forward Matej Svoboda was back at practice Monday. He said he was fully healthy after missing the opener with a sinus infection. Svoboda watched the game from the locker room at UD Arena. … All the teams playing in Charleston will attend a pre-tournament banquet Wednesday at the USS Yorktown, an aircraft carrier that participated in several campaigns during World War II.
Dayton vs. Hofstra in Charleston Classic, 7:30 p.m., ESPNU, FM 95.7, AM 1290