Dayton alums looking to relive Elite Eight magic in TBT 2019

 

By: Jake Peter | @jakepeter_


Five years later, the 2014 Dayton Flyers are still looking to show that they run Ohio

No one gave the 11th-seeded Dayton Flyers a chance to upset Ohio State in the first round of the 2014 NCAA Tournament.

Perennial powerhouses like OSU didn’t lose to plucky mid-major squads like Dayton. In fact, no team from Ohio had taken down the Buckeyes since 1998. When you add in the fact that OSU had made the Sweet 16 four years in a row and it was the Flyers first tournament appearance since 2009, there was no doubt as to who was supposed to win the game.   

Then something crazy happened. The Flyers rose to the occasion. Just over 39 minutes into the game, there were 15 lead changes, eight ties, and nearly identical stats in every category. The score? Dayton up one point. 

Despite their valiant effort, it still looked like the basketball gods would not bless the underdog this time. Point guard Aaron Craft, who led OSU with 16 points, five rebounds, and four assists, drove left and finished a reverse layup with 15 seconds left to give the Buckeyes a 59-58 lead.

However, with seven seconds left, Flyers guard Vee Sanford drove right and made a contested floater over an OSU defender to give Dayton a one-point cushion with less than four seconds remaining. The Buckeyes drove the length of the court and missed a contested floater of their own at the buzzer, forever cementing Sanford’s shot in Flyers’ lore. The team eventually made it all the way to the Elite Eight for just the third time in program history.

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Kyle Davis was a freshman on that Flyers squad. Though he didn’t play much that season, he averaged six points and six rebounds per game for his career and was a two-year captain. When he looks back at the best moments of his Flyers career, Sanford’s shot immediately rises to the top of the list.

“Even when we got to the tournament, a lot of people doubted us,” said Davis. “To sit there on the bench and watch Vee hit that game-winning floater was just amazing.”

Five years later, Davis and a group of Flyers alumni will look to secure bragging rights in Ohio for the second time when they suit up for Red Scare. The team will compete in the Columbus Regional, where they could face-off against...the Ohio State Alumni.

Davis said it feels great to reconnect with his old teammates again.

Davis

“I haven’t seen all the guys in a long time,”  said Davis. “But, I’ve basically stayed in touch with everybody from the Elite Eight team. Every time I see them we go back to the Elite 8 run.”

Joey Gruden, son of Washington Redskins head coach Jay Gruden and nephew of Oakland Raiders head coach Jon Gruden, is the General Manager of The Red Scare. Both Gruden and his co-GM, Jeremiah Bonsu, were walk-on players at Dayton for three years. Gruden now serves as a graduate assistant at Louisville, while Bonsu is a player development intern with the Dallas Mavericks.

Gruden said this team is primed to have success in TBT this year.

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“I think it was perfect timing for us, said Gruden, “and now we have a bunch of players who are in the prime of their careers at the professional level.”

Considering college basketball and pro ball have stark differences, Gruden expects the players to draw on their experience at Dayton to help guide them in TBT.

“The most important thing we’ve learned together is how hard it is to win,” said Gruden. “A lot of teams take it for granted and think that just because they’re there and supposed to be the better team they’ll show up and win. We’ve thought we were the favorite and ended up losing, and that just made us realize how hard you have to compete and how important each game is.”

“We’ve also been on the other side as the underdog, where you have this chip on your shoulder, and with a little bit of grit and determination you can beat whoever you want.”

Red Scare currently has seven players committed to the team and is looking to add an assistant coach from Dayton. Of those seven, Davis, Sanford, Dyshawn Pierre, Devin Oliver, and Kendall Pollard were members of the Elight Eight team. Gruden also said the team is also targeting Scoochie Smith and Jordan Sibert.

 

With the team playing just an hour from home, both Davis and Gruden expect Capital University to be decked out in Blue and Red this summer.

“Knowing that we would be playing in Columbus and knowing that we would get support from alumni and fans no matter what means a lot to us,” said Davis. “It shows that we’ve always been loved and supported. We’ve all been out of college for a couple of years, and just to still have that fan support and love is a great feeling.”

“The place is going to scream with UD fans,” Gruden added. “We're going to travel very well, and we’re so excited to see all the fans turn up in Columbus and show us love. I think it’s going to be a great turnout for Dayton.”