First Four: Former Flyers assistant happy to be back at UD Arena

Published: Monday, March 12, 2018 @ 9:25 PM

Ron Jirsa watches Radford practice at the First Four on Monday, March 12, 2018, at UD Arena.
David Jablonski - Staff Writer
Ron Jirsa watches Radford practice at the First Four on Monday, March 12, 2018, at UD Arena.(David Jablonski - Staff Writer)

It’s been 15 years since Ron Jirsa last stood on the sidelines at UD Arena, but the memories are flooding back this week.

A former Dayton Flyers assistant on Oliver Purnell’s staff in the early 2000s, Jirsa is back for the First Four after helping coach Radford to its third NCAA tournament appearance and first since 2009. Jirsa joined Mike Jones’ staff in 2015 and works mainly with the post players.

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The Big South champion Highlanders (22-12) meet LIU Brooklyn (18-16) in the First Four opener Tuesday at UD Arena.

“We had great years here,” Jirsa said shortly after arriving at the arena Monday ahead of a 40-minute practice session. “Great memories, a lot of close friends that still live here, and this is where my (now 17-year-old) daughter was born, here at Miami (Valley) Hospital. We lived right over on Plumwood Road. It’s just a lot of memories.

“Mostly what stands out is the friendships that I made, the guys I worked with I’ve always stayed in touch with from Oliver Purnell to (former assistant and current UD Director of Athletic Development) Josh Postorino, who is still here, and Frank Smith, who works with the NCAA now, and (former Director of Basketball Operations and current Texas coach) Shaka Smart had a tremendous career, (Liberty assistant coach) Kyle Getter had a tremendous career. And, I’ve kept in touch with some of the players that were so important to our success and our friends that still live here, anytime I’m back for high school basketball, I always try to get in touch with them. There are a lot of people to say, ‘Hi,’ to, so hopefully I bump into some of them.”

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It didn’t take long for some of the long-time Flyers fans watching practice to recognize Jirsa. After the Highlanders’ session ended, Jirsa was called over to a small crowd behind the baseline.

He took a few minutes as his team exited the court to greet at least one familiar face and a few others who gathered around him.

“You were on Purnell’s staff, right?” one fan in UD attire asked. “Remember his bulldog?”

Jirsa came to UD in 1999 after he was let go as head coach at Georgia, where he went 35-30 in two seasons.

During his four years with the Flyers, UD posted an 88-39 overall record, made two NCAA tournament appearances and two NIT trips. His final season in 2002-03, the Flyers went 24-6 and won the Atlantic 10 Tournament championship and advanced to the Big Dance as a fourth seed.

“I started talking to Purnell, and once I got to visit here, I really wanted to be here and I really started recruiting him,” Jirsa said. “He took me on his staff here, mainly because I was a little older at the time than some of the other guys on his staff, and I really enjoyed working with them and I felt I helped contribute. We did well during that time period, and the year we left, we won the Atlantic 10 conference championship here and that was by far was the most special.”

Jirsa left to stay with Purnell when he took the Clemson job, but two months in, Jirsa got a head coaching job of his own at Marshall. He spent four years there and has since been an assistant Bethel (Minn.), Tennessee Tech and now Radford.

He brings 30 years of coaching experience and seems well-respected by his players.

“He has his moments where he jokes, but he takes everything serious and he works well with the big men,” senior forward Ed Polite said. “He makes sure we know the fundamentals so we’ve always got to be top-notch with coach Jirsa.”

Now, Jirsa is hoping his Dayton connection helps the local crowd rally around the Highlanders, who were a surprise to make it this far after being picked seventh in the league during the preseason. He looks forward to coaching in front of some Flyer faithfuls again.

“I know what a special place UD Arena is, and I’ve seen the First Four on television, so I’m sure it will be at its finest,” Jirsa said. “It’s not like it’s a home game for the Dayton Flyers, but it will still be great. … Hopefully some of the fans will be for us, and maybe some of those fans that aren’t Radford fans but are rooting for someone else will come over with us for a while.”

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Former Buckeyes try to enjoy themselves during pressures of Pro Day

Published: Thursday, March 22, 2018 @ 8:56 PM

Ohio State Pro Day: J.T. Barrett interview

The stars came out Thursday at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center — the stars that wore scarlet and gray last fall and the ones who stalk NFL sidelines on Sundays.

Five NFL head coaches plus four defensive coordinators and two general managers — and 140 NFL representatives in all — attended Ohio State's annual Pro Day. Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis and Patriots head coach Bill Belichick watched 17 players work out, as did Mike Tomlin, of the Steelers, Matt Patricia, of the Lions, and Mike Zimmer, of the Vikings.

» RELATED: Ohio State still evaluating quarterbacks in spring practices

The players seemed to enjoy the attention despite the stress that came with it. All hope to hear their names called during the NFL Draft April 26-28. Some are locks. Some have to prove themselves in these workouts.

"It's been amazing," said linebacker Jerome Baker, who left Ohio State with one year of eligibility remaining. "I live by the motto, 'I'm living my best life.' That's exactly what I'm doing. Everyone makes it seem like this process is so stressful and so non-fun. You're about to go to the next level. You might as well as have fun. You got to this point because you're good at what you do."

» RELATED: Changes coming to NFL Draft broadcast predicts Baker will be picked in the second or third round. His former teammate, quarterback J.T. Barrett, may not hear his name called until the seventh round if he gets drafted at all, but he showed his arm in front of scouts at Pro Day.

"I was just trying to enjoy it," Barrett said. "That's the main thing. It comes and goes pretty fast. You don't want to get too wrapped up in and not enjoy it. It was a good day. Solid. I wish I had a couple of throws back, but that's part of it, even in a game."

Ohio State Pro Day: Billy Price interview(David Jablonski - Staff Writer)

One Ohio State prospect with a strong chance of being selected in the first or second round didn't work out. Center Billy Price remains sidelined by a incomplete pectoral tear, which he suffered at the NFL Combine on March 1. Price watched his teammates run sprints and perform drills Thursday and said his injury isn't a serious concern.

"It's not going to be an issue," Price said. "I should be good by June. I'll be bench pressing and be at full strength again."

» HARTMAN: Ohio State offense could be explosive in 2018

Another Buckeye expected to go in the early rounds is defensive end Sam Hubbard, who had 2½ sacks in his final college game in December, the Cotton Bowl victory against Southern California. He said he wanted to reinforce what the coaches have seen of him on tape in his workout.

"I was happy to go out there and do that," Hubbard said. "It's a lot of motivation to go as hard as you possibly can, especially when you've got guys like Matt Patricia and Bill Belichick coaching you up. It was an incredible experience."

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Antetokounmpo thanks Dayton after deciding to ‘start a new chapter’

Published: Thursday, March 22, 2018 @ 8:10 PM

Dayton's Kostas Antetokounmpo dunks against George Washington's Yuta Watanabe on Saturday, March 3, 2018, at UD Arena.
David Jablonski - Staff Writer
Dayton's Kostas Antetokounmpo dunks against George Washington's Yuta Watanabe on Saturday, March 3, 2018, at UD Arena.(David Jablonski - Staff Writer)

Kostas Antetokounmpo announced his departure from the University of Dayton on Twitter on Thursday night, hours after an official press release by the university.

Antetokounmpo, a 6-foot-10 redshirt freshman forward, plans to explore his options in the NBA, Dayton coach Anthony Grant said Thursday. He left school with six weeks left in the semester.

Antetokounmpo spent two years at UD. He committed to Dayton in June 2016 three days after visiting the campus. He ranked 89th in the class of 2016, according to

In October 2016, the NCAA ruled Antetokounmpo a partial qualifier, and he wasn’t able to play in his freshman season. He started practicing with the team in January 2017. He missed most of the summer workouts and preseason practices because of an injury he suffered in Greece but was healthy by the start of the season and appeared in 29 games, averaging 5.2 points, 2.9 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per game.

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Photo gallery: Marion Local D-IV boys state semifinal win

Published: Thursday, March 22, 2018 @ 7:31 PM

Marion Local senior Tyler Mescher addresses a 56-54 defeat of Pandora-Gilboa in a boys high school basketball D-IV state semifinal at OSU on Thursday, March 22, 2018. MARC PENDLETON / STAFF

Marion Local defeated Pandora-Gilboa 56-54 in a boys high school basketball Division IV state semifinal at Ohio State University’s Schottenstein Center on Thursday, March 22.

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Marion Local (24-4) will play Willoughby Cornerstone Christian (21-7) in the D-IV state championship at 10:45 a.m. Saturday also at the Schott.

Marion Local players celebrate. Marion Local defeated Pandora-Gilboa 56-54 in a D-IV boys high school basketball state semifinal at OSU’s Schottenstein Center on Thursday, March 22, 2018. MARC PENDLETON / STAFF

»RELATED: Ahrens, Barhorst earn top D-IV boys honors

»RELATED: Trotwood-Madison back to final four

»RELATED: Boys state final four pairings

»RELATED: Girls state final four results

The following is a photo gallery of the Flyers.

»FACEBOOK: For more high school sports you should like Marc Pendleton

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Bruns’ late heroics leads Marion Local in D-IV state semifinal win

Published: Thursday, March 22, 2018 @ 5:14 PM
Updated: Thursday, March 22, 2018 @ 5:16 PM

Marion Local junior Nathan Bruns addresses a 56-54 defeat of Pandora-Gilboa in a boys high school basketball D-IV state semifinal at OSU in Columbus on Thu., March 22, 2018. MARC PENDLETON / STAFF

Nathan Bruns scored Marion Local’s final five points as the Flyers edged newcomer Pandora-Gilboa 56-54 in a Division IV boys high school basketball state semifinal on Thursday.

The win sends Marion Local (24-4) into Saturday’s D-IV state championship at Ohio State University’s Schottenstein Center against Willoughby Cornerstone Christian (21-7) at 10:45 a.m. Cornerstone advanced with a 51-41 defeat of Berlin Hiland in Thursday’s opening D-IV semi at the Schott.

»RELATED: Springfield standouts on All-Ohio teams

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That sets up a rare shot at a state championship double-double for the Flyers. The Midwest Athletic Conference power also won a D-VI state football championship last December.

Scoreless in the first half, Bruns scored 15 points in the second half to lead the Flyers to their 12th straight win. None were more crucial than his last five.

»RELATED: Rams’ opposing coach, ‘They’re crazy athletic’

»RELATED: Ahrens, Barhorst earn top D-IV boys honors

Tyler Mescher’s 17 points led Marion Local in scoring. Trailing by two, he missed two free throws with 2:11 left. However, Bruns snared the rebound, hit a field goal and converted a free throw for a 3-point play that would give the Flyers the lead for good, but not without some anxious moments.

Following a steal, Gilboa was in great position for a final shot, but missed. Bruns rebounded the miss and converted two free throws.

»RELATED: Trotwood-Madison back to final four

»RELATED: Boys state final four pairings

Ahead by three, the Flyers deliberately sent Jared Breece to the line with 5.2 seconds left. He converted the first to account for the final score. On the second he bashed off the rim, but the play was ruled dead. Marion Local successfully inbounded the ball and the celebration was on.

Drew Johnson had a game-high 24 points to lead Pandora-Gilboa (26-2), including 19 in the first half. Breece added 16 points.

»RELATED: Moeller bumps Wayne off tourney trail

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Marion Local will be shooting for its third boys state basketball title, joining the 2003 and 1975 Flyers’ teams. It also is Marion Local’s fifth state final four. It was the first final four for Pandora-Gilboa, out of the Blanchard Valley Conference and Putnam County League.

Cornerstone Christian 51, Berlin Hiland 41: Michael Bothwell, the D-IV state player of the year, scored 22 points in leading the Willoughby power. This is the second final four for the Patriots, who won a D-IV 

state title in 2016. Hiland finished 23-6.

»RELATED: Boys regional results

»RELATED: Girls state final four results

• Upper Arlington senior Dane Goodwin was named Ohio’s Mr. Basketball by the Ohio Prep Sportswriters Association on Wednesday. The son of former University of Dayton hall of famer and Capital men’s coach Damon Goodwin, Dane averaged 24 points and 10 rebounds for the Golden Bears.

A four-year starter, he initially verbally committed to OSU but signed with Notre Dame after Thad Matta resigned with the Buckeyes.


Thursday’s D-IV semifinal results

Willoughby Cornerstone Christian 51, Berlin Hiland 41

Marion Local 56, Pandora-Gilboa 54

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