More than a few fans of the Dayton Flyers have sensed an East Coast bias in the annual Atlantic 10 Conference men’s basketball awards over the years.
No Dayton player has won the conference awards for top player, defender or rookie/freshman. Until Tuesday, the Flyers had won the coach of the year and sixth man awards once.
Some of the snubs in the past probably had much to do with Dayton’s lack of conference championships — two West Division titles in the last decade and one shared title last season — because as outright champions this season, the Flyers dominated the postseason awards.
Archie Miller won coach of the year, and all four of his seniors earned all-conference honors.
“It’s nice to be recognized by the other coaches in the league,” said Miller, the first UD coach to take home the award since Oliver Purnell in 1998. “I’ve got a lot of respect for the coaches in our league and the jobs they all do, and to be voted by them, I’m very appreciative. But with coach of the year comes team of the year. We had a great team. They did some special things to win the conference outright. The individual accolades follow. That’s what we talk about all the time. Don’t focus on individual goals. Focus on team goals. The more team you are, generally the more individuals will get recognized, and I think that was the case for us.”
Senior point guard Scoochie Smith, who was named to the preseason second team, earned his first postseason A-10 award of any sort. He was named to the first team along with the A-10’s player of the year, Richmond’s T.J. Cline, and St. Bonaventure’s Jaylen Adams, Virginia Commonwealth’s JeQuan Lewis and Davidson’s Jack Gibbs.
Entering the A-10 tournament, which begins at noon Friday for No. 1 seed Dayton (24-6) against No. 8 La Salle or No. 9 Davidson, Smith is averaging 13.5 points and 4.4 assists per game. He made the first team in large part because of his clutch play. He shot 61 percent (17 of 28) from the field in the last two minutes of games in the regular season.
“It means a lot,” Smith said. “With all the hard work I put in with my teammates, it’s a blessing to get noticed in the conference.”
Senior guard Kyle Davis, snubbed the last two seasons for his defensive play, took home two big honors. He was named the sixth man of the season and also made the all-defensive team along with senior Charles Cooke. George Washington’s Yuta Watanabe, VCU’s Mo Alie-Cox and Rhode Island’s Hassan Martin also made the all-defensive team.
In the regular season, Davis averaged 8.3 points and 3.9 rebounds. He shot 56.6 percent (81 of 143) from the field and 40.4 percent from 3-point range (23 of 57).
Davis started seven A-10 games but came off the bench for a nine-game stretch after missing two games with a sprained ankle. Darrell Davis took his place in the lineup. Dayton went 8-1 with Davis coming off the bench.
“I just had to do what I had to do,” Davis said. “I’m always getting the job done. Moving to the bench wasn’t really a problem for me.”
Cooke, a first-team selection a year ago, made the second team along with Davidson’s Peyton Aldridge, George Mason’s Marquise Moore, who also took home the Chris Daniels Most Improved Player Award, George Washington’s Tyler Cavanaugh and Rhode Island’s Martin.
Cooke leads the team in scoring (16.2 points per game) and rebounding (5.2). His assists jumped from 1.8 per game last season to 3.0. He made the all-defensive team for the second straight season. He ranked second on the team with 27 blocks.
Senior forward Kendall Pollard made the third team. Joining him were Richmond’s ShawnDre’ Jones, Rhode Island’s E.C. Matthews, St. Bonaventure’s Matt Mobley and VCU’s Justin Tillman.
Pollard was the conference’s most improved player as a sophomore and battled injuries last season. He missed the first six games this season but returned to the form he showed as a sophomore during A-10 play, leading the team with 15.4 points and 5.4 rebounds per game in 18 conference games.
“It was pretty cool to see all those guys be represented,” Miller said of his seniors, “and it was all well deserved.”
Dayton vs. Davidson or La Salle, noon, NBC Sports Network, FM 95.7, AM 1290 WHIO