Dayton Flyers coach Anthony Grant won a gold medal at the FIBA Americas Championship with his family watching in the stands.
Grant and his wife and kids all got to pose with the trophy after the United States Under-18 team beat Canada 113-74 in the championship game June 16 in St. Catharines, Ont. The family watched the final three games of the tournament and even found time to visit Niagara Falls.
“We had a good time,” Grant said.
Grant described his entire experience with Team USA as a blast. He and Wake Forest coach Danny Manning assisted Kansas coach Bill Self. The coaches helped turn some of the top young talent in the country into a cohesive group that played so well a gold medal seem inevitable. By the end of the tournament, Grant felt as if the team had been together for five or six months, not 2½ weeks.
Of course, it’s never as easy as it looks. Grant was an assistant coach in 2008 when the USA lost the gold-medal game to Argentina. This time, the United States beat Argentina 104-92 in the semifinals and won every other game by a wide margin.
“It was a fun tournament to watch,” Grant said. “I felt, with what the USA committee and staff was able to put together for our team, we had the most talent from top to bottom in the tournament, and those guys did a good job playing off of one another and playing together.”
Back on the job at Dayton now, Grant and the Flyers enter an important stretch of the offseason. The second summer session begins Monday. He talked about that as well as the work already done by the returning players and newcomers in an interview Thursday with the Dayton Daily News.
Q: What were the spring workouts like for the players?
A: The first summer session was really for our returning players to continue the improvements and get better in the weight room. We used the time on the court for skill work and individual development. We tried to take the things we learned over the course of last year — areas that are strengths of ours, areas that we need improvement in — and said, ‘OK, let’s work intentionally on addressing some of these areas as we move forward.’ I think our guys really responded well to that.
Q: What will you do in the next phase of the summer
A: All of our guys are here now. We’ve got all 11 scholarship players here. Obviously, we’ve had some transition with our strength coach and with one of the assistant coaches (Casey Cathrall and James Kane leaving the program), so now it’s a matter of as we move forward not only the individual development in terms of skill but also introducing the new guys and returning guys to each other, trying to get them familiar with some of the basics of what we do offensively and defensively. We’ll try to take these next five to six weeks and try to put those things together on the court. Obviously, the sense of urgency is to get a coach in here from a strength-and-conditioning standpoint to continue with the strides they’ve been able to make. That’s the priority for me now.
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Q: How much will you miss Kane and Cathrall?
A: Those guys were great pieces to our staff, and certainly — I speak on behalf of our players and our staff — we’ll miss them because they were great people first and foremost, and I think they did a great job, which created the opportunities that they felt were best for them at this stage in their careers. We wish them luck. We’ll move forward with our eye on the ball and continue to work toward our goals and aspirations as a team. We’re in the process now of trying to get those positions filled with the right guys that fit Dayton and fit our culture and the needs the team has.
Q: Kane and Cathrall described the players as hungry and said it’s a team on a mission. Do you see that?
A: I think so. I think everybody is on the same page. At this stage, we’re not at practice. We’re not on the court every day. We’re not in competition. You want to hear, ‘This guy’s looking good on the court doing this,’ but we’re not at that stage right now. It’s the summer. We’ve got periods we need to go through in terms of our development.”
Q: What are your impressions of the newcomers?
A: They’re great kids. I think we’ve got a really good group. You’ve two freshmen coming in who will play (Dwayne Cohill and Frankie Policelli), and then Jhery (Matos), the junior college guy coming in, and the two transfers (Ibi Watson and Rodney Chatman). So we’ve got five new pieces, three of which will be eligible to play next year, but all five of them will have a strong impact on our team. I think all five of them really fit in terms of our culture. The way the team has been able to bond, those guys have had a pretty seamless transition into our culture.
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Q: What will an average week look like for the players in the summer?
A: We’ll spend two to three days on the court with basketball-related activities. The rest of the time will be spent probably on four days a week in the weight room just working on getting their bodies physically where they need to be.
Q: What are the new rules regarding practice time in the summer?
A: You get eight hours total. You can use a maximum of four hours on basketball. It used to be two hours a week you were limited to basketball-related activities. They didn’t expand the amount of time you have in a week, but they expanded the amount of time you can use for basketball. So instead of having two hours on the court and a maximum of six in the weight room, you can go a maximum of four hours on the court now, which would leave four hours of strength and conditioning activities. We won’t use all four hours of our court time over the course of the summer just because this is a time to get them where they need to be from a physical and conditioning standpoint.
Q: When you look at the players who arrived on campus a year ago — Jalen Crutcher, Jordan Davis and Obadiah Toppin — how much difference do you see in them from a physical standpoint?
A: I think Jordan was probably the one guy who walked in with a little bit more development physically than Obi and Jalen, but those two guys have really transformed from a physical standpoint. Jalen — and this is not going to sound like a lot — but I think he’s above 170 or 175 pounds now and he looks good physically. I think he walked in the door at maybe 150. He’s really picked up quite a bit. Obi has transformed. I think he’s gained anywhere from 25 to 30 pounds of good weight. He’s done a really good job. Those guys are a year older and have matured physically and probably more importantly mentally.
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Q: When you look at the roster as it stands now, what do you like about it?
A: I think we’re making progress toward the culture we need to try to develop as a team in terms of our guys understanding who we are and what we’re about as a team and the willingness to work toward that.
Q: Is there still a chance you could add players to the roster?
A: I wouldn’t rule anything out. Obviously, you’re always keeping your eyes and ears open for what’s out there. We’ll see what happens.