With the exodus of many familiar faces from last years team, this year's Flyer club has received a youthful jolt in the form of a talented and confident recruiting class.
The most obvious changes have come in the backcourt with Paul Williams being the only returning guard who logged a considerable amount of minutes last year. Dayton’s own Juwan Staten and Drake transfer Josh Parker will lead the Flyer attack and even though they lack experience, will provide an upgrade over last year’s point guards.
Cue the first two exhibition games this past week against Grand Valley State and Findlay. Both talented and tested Division II teams, the Flyers spark came from the new point guards who performed exceptionally. Both guards showed poise (in stretches) running the offense and playing with intensity on the defensive perimeter.
More than anything, Staten and Parker give Flyer fans hope because of their multi-dimensional approach to the point guard position. They’re deficiencies are not glaring enough for defenses to adjust their coverage as was the case last year.
Beneficiaries on the offensive end of these skills will be senior leader Chris Wright and junior swingman Chris Johnson. Both excel in the open floor and scoring off of teammates dribble penetration. This was most evident for Johnson in the exhibition matches who flourished in the open floor knocking down five (of 10) rhythm three-pointers.
While Chris Wright wasn’t as impressive as Johnson, his upside is equally as promising as the season progresses. His success will hinge on his ability to make quick decisions, especially in transition, whether to attack the basket (and risk playing out of control) or pull up and take a jump shot or find an open teammate. For three years, Chris has more often than not selected the former; time will tell if his game has improved in the offseason to the point where he will make the right play, not the one that may land him on ESPN’s Top Ten.
The real issue this year will be the defense.
Kurt Huelsman’s presence is already sorely missed and we’ve only seen 80 minutes of basketball. The ball-hawking abilities of both London Warren and Rob Lowery are also a thing of the past. And team defense and rotation through two exhibition games has left much to be desired.
The good news is the regular season doesn’t start until next Saturday when Mount St. Mary’s comes to UD for a 2pm matinee. The bad news is UD’s success will be directly connected to how well (and how quickly) the defense improves to the level Coach Gregory needs it to be.
Yes the team is younger, slimmer and less experienced than last year. And yes these three characteristics will pose challenges to the Flyers all year. The solution lies in the recruits that are now donning the Red and Blue and the coaching staff that brought them to campus.
Now it’s time for everyone to show what they’re made of.