After trying year, Dayton rallies around college hoops team

DAYTON, Ohio (AP) — Trey Landers survived one of his fatherland’s worst moments. Now he’s contributing to at least one of its very best.

A Dayton native, the senior guard has helped lead the University of Dayton basketball team to its very best commence ever at 27-2 and to No. 4 in the most up-to-date Connected Press poll, its best in all probability rating in 64 years.

Practically seven months earlier, though, he used to be working out of the again of a Dayton bar as a gunman approached with an an assault-form weapon.

Other folks greet or e-mail to “moral thank me and my teammates for the total thing we’re doing appropriate now,” Landers acknowledged. “Our team is serving to drag the metropolis collectively a exiguous bit. … It’s greater than us.”

Dayton has been struggling for many years, its newest population of some 140,000 down from almost double that in 1960. Its signature company, NCR, moved to Georgia, a nearby Long-established Motors plant closed, and as of late, the opioid disaster hit laborious.

And then came 2019, what Mayor Nan Whaley calls “a helluva yr.” Tensions were excessive spherical a Ku Klux Klan rally downtown in May possibly likely well perchance, followed by devastating tornadoes.

And in the early morning on Aug. 4, a gunman opened fireplace in the metropolis’s Oregon entertainment district. He killed 9 folk in 32 seconds sooner than police shot and killed him, stopping him from fascinating into the crowded Ned Peppers nightclub.

Landers had arrived there with two mates moral minutes earlier. They heard the volley of gunshots, and a fearful mass rushed into the membership’s rear the set they were. Landers ran out and hopped a fence.

“It’s laborious to flee it again,” acknowledged Landers. “It’s a visual checklist that will repeatedly be in my head. That it’s in all probability you’ll well likely also’t unsee some of that stuff.”

It also evoked a anxious childhood reminiscence, the inability of his father, Robert, who used to be fatally shot commence air a store in Dayton in a mute-unsolved case. “I was about 8 years ragged, so I was conscious … so it makes you assume, it brings a form of questions.”

Landers called his coach, Anthony Grant, and folks stop to him to keep in touch thru his emotions. He rapidly refocused on basketball, the sport and his teammates serving to him cope.

Because the metropolis began a therapeutic route of, Whaley, a UD alum, adopted a slogan: “We’re going to safe thru the winter with the Flyers.”

Unranked to commence the season, the team won its first six video games sooner than shedding in past favorite time to a heralded Kansas team. An past favorite time loss to Colorado has been followed by an 18-recreation winning scramble.

The Flyers clinched the Atlantic 10 title with an 82-67 victory over Davidson on Friday evening at UD Area, an different for the metropolis to celebrate after its challenges.

“We exit and play for Dayton day by day,” acknowledged Obi Toppin, who had 23 capabilities and 12 rebounds in the clinching ranking. “They had two tragedies that push us to work more challenging each day.”

With no main-league-level pro sports groups in Dayton, the Flyers absorb prolonged been widespread in the metropolis, which each and every yr hosts the “First Four” video games to commence the NCAA Match. A file 14 sellouts this season of the 13,409-seat enviornment absorb helped preserve the Flyers fired up.

“It is vitally most essential offer it to the fan flawed,” Duquesne Coach Keith Dambrot acknowledged after an 80-70 Feb. 22 loss at Dayton. “Those are one of the very best followers in the nation.”

Grant, who returned to Dayton three years ago as head coach after playing for the Flyers three many years ago, acknowledged the coaches absorb talked to avid gamers “in regards to the enjoyment it’s in all probability you’ll bring to others, whether or now not it’s thanks to the events that hit our community, and even it’s moral somebody who’s going thru tough times.”

“It’s repeatedly been a love affair with the metropolis, community and Flyers,” he acknowledged.

Arthur Jipson, a UD sociology professor, likes to position on college tools spherical town, drawing shouts of “Lunge Flyers,” excessive-fives and even renditions of the college track.

“It’s really appealing,” Jipson acknowledged. “Other folks were thru loads, but they seek for the Flyers doing wisely so as to feel valid, so as to feel some ravishing issues are going down in our community.”

As a Democrat who riled Republican President Donald Trump correct thru his post-shooting skedaddle to to Dayton, Whaley is feeble to sparking criticism on social media. But her contemporary post of a Dayton Each day News chronicle in regards to the Flyers drew no trolls, moral likes and shares.

“Nobody has something flawed to narrate in regards to the Flyers,” she acknowledged Tuesday evening at the Oregon Explicit, moral down the avenue from the shooting dwelling.

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Dayton native John Botts, 72, shook his head Tuesday as he stood commence air any other bar in the Oregon district.

“I will’t divulge that it’s helped us to put out of your mind,” Botts acknowledged. “I mute take into myth that loads.”

But, he agreed — the Flyers are lifting spirits, and he’s begun following the team intently.

Kaitlyn Baxendale, 21, a junior from Chicago finding out media manufacturing, is among UD students working on a documentary titled “Dayton’s Darkest Summer season.” They’re gathering individual tales and expert commentary about Dayton’s resilience.

“No doubt one of many widespread-or-garden issues is how Dayton kept making nationwide files for now not-so-valid causes,” she acknowledged. “I deem it (basketball) really offers every person something favorite to rally spherical that’s optimistic.”

A yr after going 21-12 and shedding in the first spherical of college basketball’s second-tier match, the Flyers are seeking some March magic in one of the best dance this time spherical.

“This team is particular,” Landers acknowledged. “They’re elated with what we’re doing, and we moral would prefer to continue to produce them proud.”

AP sports writers Mitch Stacy and Joe Kay in Dayton contributed. Practice Dan Sewell at

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