Freshman point guard Khari Price spent most of February watching his University of Dayton teammates play basketball, unable to join them.
Price, a former standout at Salmen High School in Slidell, missed six games with a left thigh contusion, an injury he suffered Jan. 30 while taking a charge during a 66-61 loss to Xavier.
Now, as the Flyers try to qualify for the Atlantic 10 championship tournament, they need Price to make an impact off the bench.
On Feb. 27, Price made his return, scoring seven points on 2-for-2 shooting as Dayton defeat Charlotte 88-67.
“It’s been a roller coaster type of season, but all in all, it’s been productive,” said Price, who is averaging 3.1 points and 1.3 assists in 20 games. “I’ve definitely learned a lot, and I’m appreciative of every minute of it.”
Price, a Slidell native, was the sixth man on Salmen’s 2009 Class 4A state championship squad.
Not only does Dayton need Price’s output, but it also needs scoring from sophomore forward Matt Derenbecker, who was a standout at Country Day. A transfer from LSU, Derenbecker is averaging 4.9 points a game. His 3-point shooting percentage ranks fourth in the conference (42.7).
At Country Day, Derenbecker advanced to the Class 1A finals, including winning it all in 2009.
Price and Derenbecker played against each other in high school, but Price lost track of Derenbecker after he left LSU. When he visited Dayton on a recruiting trip, he learned Derenbecker was sitting out per NCAA transfer rules.
And now, they are the first Louisiana players on the Dayton men’s basketball squad.
Price scored a career-high 10 points during in a losing effort against Butler (Jan. 12). One month earlier, Derenbecker scored 15 points in a win against Florida Atlantic. Even more, Dayton needs Price’s energy on the perimeter, especially on defense, and Derenbecker’s outside shooting.
“It makes it easier, with him being here,” Derenbecker said of Price. “We’re going through the same thing. We understand what it’s like to be away from our friends and families.”
Entering Saturday’s game against Richmond, the Flyers are in 13th place in the Atlantic 10 — one game out of a four-way tie for 12th with three games left in the regular season. The top 12 finishers in the regular season advance to the conference tournament.