On the heels of their first Elite Eight appearance in more than 30 years, Archie Miller’s Dayton Flyers are looking to do something they’ve yet to do under his watch: win the Atlantic 10. Last season’s group finished tied for fifth place in the Atlantic 10, and in Miller’s three seasons at the school the Flyers have finished no better than that in the standings.
With contributors such as Jordan Sibert, Dyshawn Pierre and Dayshon “Scoochie” Smith returning, Dayton is expected to contend for the Atlantic 10 crown. In order to do so they’ll need to account for the loss of three starters, led by forward Devin Oliver, and a productive reserve in Vee Sanford. Unfortunately for Dayton they won’t begin practice this weekend with all hands on deck, as three players will be sidelined for health reasons.
David Jablonski of the Dayton Daily News reported earlier this week that Pierre (foot) and Jalen Robinson (ankle) are expected to be sidelined until mid-October, and junior college transfer Detwon Rogers could be out until at least January as he recovers from a knee injury. While Robinson was a supplementary piece for the Flyers last season, averaging 4.3 points and 2.8 rebounds in 12.6 minutes of action per game, Pierre was a starter and is expected to take on a larger role in 2014-15.
“Some of our most experienced everyday workers are no longer here,” Miller said. “You add in new faces and new roles for our younger guys. It just becomes a normal progression of trying to build a brand-new team. We need our oldest players to drive the ship, so to speak. As they get accustomed to new roles, new opportunities to lead, it’s going to be challenging. Each individual’s got to focus on the team at hand and what we’re trying to do and put those self expectations to the side.”
Pierre finished the season averaging 11.2 points and 5.5 rebounds per game, starting 36 of Dayton’s 37 games and reaching double figures in 22 of his appearances. The “good” news regarding both Pierre and Robinson is that they aren’t expected to miss any game action based upon the reported timeline. However the same can’t be said for Rogers, who 16.7 points and 7.2 rebounds per game at the College of Southern Idaho last season.
While Pierre and Robinson have ample game experience with their teammates that isn’t the case for Rogers, whose adjustment process becomes a bit more difficult due to the injury. Chemistry played a pivotal role in Dayton’s run to make the NCAA tournament, much less enjoy success once they made the field. With the three players above ruled out of the lineup, the remaining Flyers will need to work towards cultivating a similar spirit.