This post must start by saying that anything written about Dayton this season is trivial in light of Steve McElvene’s passing. Something feels wrong about discussing the team’s depth when the program is dealing with a heart-wrenching and tragic situation.
With that said, Jon Rothstein tweeted last week that senior forward Kendall Pollard (10.3 points per game, 4.9 rebounds per game) may not do full contact work until October. This is another setback for a guy who had knee and wrist surgery over the summer after being far less than 100 percent in the team’s opening round loss to Syracuse.
“I was really nervous at first,” Pollard told the Dayton Daily News after having wrist surgery in Chicago in May. “I was so nervous. You’ve got to be put to sleep. It’s a tough process. I don’t see how people who have really major injuries do it. There’s a mental toughness you have to have to come back, even to do rehab.”
Pollard had hoped to play in the team’s trip to Spain, but didn’t suit up.
How worried should Dayton be about going forward without its senior forward?
The back court is decidedly not a concern with Charles Cooke and Scoochie Smith headlining the team, and Kyle Davis and Darrell Davis also in the mix.
The front court is less settled.
Archie Miller already has to replace Dyshawn Pierre (12.6 ppg, 8.5 rpg) and, without Pollard, is looking at a largely unproven rotation of bigs. Fortunately for Miller, transfer Josh Cunningham could be riding in to save the day.
The 6-7 forward was in demand when he left Bradley, and for good reason. His defensive rebounding percentage was incredible in his freshman year (21.3%) and his traditional rebounding numbers were equally good (7.5 rpg in 30.3 mpg).
Pairing him with a steady, experienced player like Pollard is part of the reason the Flyers are an A-10 contender. But if Pollard’s injuries linger into the season, Miller’s options become less clear.
Sophomore forwards Sam Miller (9.9 mpg) and Ryan Mikesell (8.0 mpg) may be two players to watch. There’s always that boulder-size “grain” of salt with foreign trips, but both had their moments in Spain. Miller had 13 points in a win over the Barcelona All-Stars, while Mikesell had 10 points in that game and a solid outing (six points, five rebounds, five assists) in a loss to Spanish Select. If nothing else, this suggests that both should expect larger roles right away, especially if Pollard misses time.
Something else to consider is that while the Flyers don’t have the most difficult non-conference schedule, they do jump right into it with games against Alabama (in Tuscaloosa) and St. Mary’s before heading to Anaheim for the Wooden Legacy.
Dayton certainly won’t be doomed if the team does lose Pollard. However, he’s a somewhat unheralded and important piece of what should be a very good team. There are some options to overcome his potential loss, but as the days tick off until opening night, keep an eye on whether the talented forward will be ready to go.