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Archdeacon: First choice, the best choice for celebrated Flyer freshman


So Dwayne Cohill becoming a Dayton Flyer — rather than ending up at Ohio State, Penn State, Northwestern, Xavier, DePaul, UNLV, West Virginia, Clemson, Texas or one of the other 18 or more Division I schools that offered him a scholarship — didn’t exactly adhere to Biblical verse.

According to Matthew 20:16: “So the last shall be first and the first last.”

But as it turned out, the four-star recruit out of Holy Name High School in Parma Heights made the first of his official college visits to Dayton.

Some 15 days after that — in late September of 2017 — he was scheduled to go to Ohio State. And after that, everyone from Vanderbilt to Missouri, Virginia Tech and Xavier were jockeying for a spot in his travel plans.

But in this case, first ended up first.

A couple of days after Cohill and his mom, Jo Ann Williams, visited Dayton, touring the campus, meeting the other Flyers players and especially talking with head coach Anthony Grant and his staff – who already had made several trips to northeast Ohio to see the 6-foot-3 guard – he verbally committed to UD.

He cancelled the rest of his visits, meaning the last stayed last.

Initially he said some of his friends back home were puzzled by his choice:

“They were like ‘Oh you’re going there? To Dayton?’ A lot of those guys are big-time Ohio State fans and they wanted me to go there. Some wanted me to go to Michigan.

“I was like, ‘But you don’t really understand what Dayton is. You never been there. I have and Dayton is right for me. It’s what I’m looking for.’”

And the Flyers could say the same about him.

Cohill is one of the most highly trumpeted high school players UD has ever signed. According to 247Sports.com, he was the No. 5 ranked recruit in Ohio from the 2018 Class and was rated 121st nationally. Rivals.com ranked him 92nd in the U.S.

He scored 2,182 points in his high school career, which ranks him No. 31 all-time among Ohio’s prep scorers.

He said he got his first recruiting letter – from Xavier – when he was in seventh grade. By the beginning of his freshman year, Iowa, Ohio State, Illinois, Florida and Virginia Tech had become regular pen pals.

After his sophomore year – the very first day college coaches were allowed to call him – he said he got about 20 calls with Ohio State, Michigan, UNLV and Penn State getting through first.

He remembered another day walking into the Holy Name gym to find coaches from Duquesne, Xavier and Purdue all waiting to talk to him.

Soon, he said, his mom was being wooed, too:

“Some places tried to be real nice to her and sweet talk her. They said, ‘We’ll take care of you and Dwayne, too. We know how much you love him.’”

He smiled and shrugged:

“But I wasn’t looking for the flashing lights or the big city. There’s a lot to do in the big city and I know, being 18, you can start to act funny when you get away from home. So maybe I just thought about long-term goals and stuff like that.

“A smaller area like Dayton is cool for me. I can get to know a lot of people on campus, not just be lost in the crowd. And basketball is the thing here. I didn’t want to go to a school where football was the big thing or to a city where nobody cared about the team.

“Dayton was the right place for me.”

Role-model mom

He said he was raised by his mom, initially in East Cleveland near Shaw High School. As he began elementary school, he said she “wanted to get away from the chaos” in their neighborhood and they moved to the city’s West Side.

“My mom’s probably the strongest person I ever met,” he said. “She raised her five kids herself. She carried the load and became both mom and dad for me. She went through a lot of things in life, but never showed her real emotion about it. She just tried to be the best woman and mom she could be.

“She became my role model. “

He said he doesn’t often talk about his father, Dwayne Sr. in interviews, but admitted he got his athletic talent from him. He said his dad was a multi-sport star in high school and now works security for the Cleveland Cavaliers and other high profile visitors to Quicken Loans Arena.

“Now that Tristan Thompson is dating Khloe Kardashian, anytime she comes to a game he’s her personal body guard.” Cohill said. “He takes her everywhere. Basically every concert that comes into the Q, he works security.”

He said his dad has been a body guard for the hip hop trio Migos, too.

“When the Cavs are on TV, I see him all the time on the court,” he said.

And yet, when it comes to basketball and family, the person he really salutes is his sister, Tinishia, who is 13 years older and now lives in California.

“She used to take me to the park or one of her friend’s places, just someplace where I could go hoop it,” he said. “And she did more than that. She told me right and wrong She was like a second mom to me.”

He said he went to Holy Name, a Catholic school where every day he wore a shirt and tie, because “I knew it would help me mature. I was like a really silly kid having too much fun so it was good I had certain rules to follow.”

After a breakout freshman season and an equally impressive AAU campaign that followed, Cohill caught everyone’s attention.

“Before my sophomore year – when Archie (Miller) was here – Dayton began recruiting me,” he said “Archie saw me at a couple of AAU games, but Coach Kuwik (assistant coach Kevin Kuwik) was the main recruiter. Me and him had a good relationship. We talked a lot. He was a real good dude.

“But then going into my junior year, their recruiting really died down. I really don’t know why and I never asked. I was just kind of like, ‘Well, alright, Dayton’s really not in the picture anymore.’”

Several major programs continued to purse him, but he said when Miller left UD for Indiana and Grant came in, his interest was piqued:

“I was like, ‘Let’s see what happens.’ I had heard about him coaching the (Oklahoma City) Thunder, so I looked him up — just in case he reached out — and I saw everything else he did.

“I was like ‘Alright this is intriguing.’”

He quickly found himself back in the Flyers’ high beams when Grant and his staff made him their No. 1 focus.

“A week or so after Coach Grant got the job, he offered me a scholarship,” Cohill said. “That’s when Coach Solomon (assistant coach Anthony Solomon) took over my recruitment. He’s a real good guy and pretty soon I heard from him or Coach Grant almost everyday. I felt comfortable with them.”

He signed in November.

High hopes for this season

“Dayton came and preached community and family and all that,” he said. “I was like ‘Yeah…yeah,’ but then I got here and saw it on my visit. I saw it with my teammates and the students on campus, too.”

Unlike the older players who live in apartments near the basketball offices and practice court in the Cronin Center, Cohill and fellow freshman Frankie Policelli live with other first-year students in Marycrest, a dorm on the other side of campus.

“I’m meeting somebody new everyday,” Cohill said. “Everybody’s open and we’re all making new relationships. It’s just what they talked about. And hanging around my teammates is the most fun. There’s never a dull moment.”

He’s never witnessed a game live at UD Arena. Although he said he was scheduled to visit two or three times last year, he said something always came up:

“But I did watch them on TV those games and every other time they were on, too.”

He said as the Flyers faltered last season — finishing 14-17 overall and 8-10 in the A-10 Conference — he didn’t second guess his decision:

“I knew those weren’t the guys Coach Grant recruited. They were still Archie’s guys. I figured once we got our guys in there, we’d be alright.

“I’m not saying I’m going to make a super impact, but I know our guys — all the guys on the team now — have really bought into what Coach Grant wants. “

While most of the national college basketball preview magazines pick the Flyers to finish eighth or ninth in the 14-team A-10 this season, Cohill isn’t deterred:

“I feel this year is going to be really, really good. I think we’ve got a chance to compete for the championship…I really believe that.”

That might be just a spin-off of from some other Scripture – Psalms 8:2 — about “out of the mouths of babes.”

But the Flyers hope it goes back to original biblical verse.

The one about the last — or at least a team predicted to finish closer to the bottom of the A-10 than the top — ending up first.



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