The Life Of Brians
Shhhh. A city in Ohio has a secret.
The sixth most populous city in the 34th biggest state understandably remains nationally underrated for basketball fervor. For goodness sakes, the very first “mechanical money drawer” was invented in this fine town.
How could such a basketball revelation escape if money itself was perfectly protected in the home of the original Incorruptible Cashier?
Dayton, Ohio contains basketball bliss uncommon throughout the countless midwestern hoops havens. The city is situated 37 miles east of the Indiana border. While the state of Indiana often earns mention nationwide, Dayton, the “Gem City,” has been sitting on a gold mine of basketball enthusiasm for years.
Since 1969, when the University of Dayton Arena was built, 78 games have been sold out. For a team rarely in the Associated Press Top 25, the attendance mark is always in the top 35. Most years the faithful squeeze into the Arena in greater abundance than all but 20 fan bases.
On the floor the Dayton Flyers are adjusting to uncommon national respect. The adjustments are not uncomfortable as everyone wants to be acknowledged for their successes, but adjustments all the same.
Leading scorer Brian Roberts said, “I know that with a little bit of notoriety and being ranked we just have to play hard and do what we do in games.” The senior guard led Dayton in scoring 21 times last season and knows the onus is on him to knock down clutch shots. “I know my teammates have confidence in me,” reveals Roberts. “Whenever we need a big shot they are looking to me. In the huddles they are telling me to ‘c’mon.’ That kind of feedback helps.”
He is so smart with the ball in his hands. Roberts does not have the break-down ability of a Scottie Reynolds but he has outstanding court awareness. If there is an open space or sliver of lane, Roberts knows where it is and can get there with his dribble.
A big part of his tremendous execution concerns the pick usage. For example, against Saint Louis University Roberts waved off a screen from his center. Then he called for his small forward to set a high ball screen. The Dayton guard buried a deep triple. B-Rob wanted the switch on the screen to bring a shorter defender out on him.
From first-hand experiences, Rhode Island coach Jim Baron explains, “Brian is tremendous. He takes it off the dribble. He is a terrific open shooter, shooting 47% from three’s. He makes everybody better because when they need a big play he makes it.”
The big shots are now commonplace for the tournament-hungry senior. Not once in his college career has Roberts played in a postseason game.
Surely the head coach of Dayton, Brian Gregory, promised Roberts a tournament appearance on recruiting visits four and five years ago. The smart money is on Gregory to deliver on that promise soon. Very soon.
Just a tick over 40, Gregory has already served two stints as assistant to the regionally revered, nationally known Tom Izzo. As the millennium dropped into being, Gregory actually earned the title of Associate Head Coach for Michigan State.
Using the exuberant crowd as a backdrop, the proven recruiter Gregory has started hauling in better players by the truckloads. “You see some players growing up right in front of you,” said Gregory. “Teams led by veterans that have been through the battles, but you also have young guys that are really making an impact.”
He looks to take his troops back to the Big Dance for the first time in four seasons.
Though the UD Arena has hosted 74 NCAA Tournament games, nearly second most all-time for any venue, Dayton will not be afforded the opportunity to continue their home successes in the NCAA tournament this year. The NCAA guidelines disallow actual home appearances in the draw.
How they handle the improving conference teams will ultimately determine if Dayton’s secret will get out. The Atlantic 10, thirsty for recognition, might very well be finding its treasure trove. Brian Roberts, Brian Gregory and the Flyers are doing their best to unearth a traditionally hidden gem: Dayton, Ohio.