Dayton family enjoys ride to Elite Eight with Clemson

Daniel Nauseef, whose dad had a big role in the First Four for many years, is a junior walk-on at Clemson

JP Nauseef took his family to Memphis, Tenn., 10 years ago to watch the Dayton Flyers play in the NCAA tournament.

A photo shows JP, his wife Carmen and their sons Jack, Daniel, Nicholas and William covered head to toe in UD gear in front of the Fed Ex Forum, where the Flyers beat Stanford in the Sweet 16 before losing to Florida in the Elite Eight in 2014.

At that point, JP served as the chairman of the Big Hoopla NCAA First Four Local Organizing Committee. College basketball was a big part of his life then, and little has changed now — this weekend, in fact, he reached a peak as a fan and a dad.

Chaminade Julienne graduate Daniel Nauseef, 21, is a walk-on junior guard for the No. 6 seed Clemson Tigers, who beat No. 2 Arizona 77-72 on Thursday in the NCAA tournament to reach the Elite Eight. The Tigers lost 89-82 to No. 4 Alabama on Saturday night at Crypto.Com Arena in Los Angeles.

Daniel sat at the end of the bench but enjoyed the experience as much as anyone. An Associated Press photo showed him leaping in the air with Chase Hunter, Clemson’s leading scorer against Arizona, after the victory in the Sweet 16.

The whole family traveled across the country for the games and enjoyed an off day Friday. JP, who’s now the President & Chief Executive Officer of JobsOhio, was up early on Friday, working remotely on Ohio time in California, when he talked to the Dayton Daily News about the experience of seeing his son play for Clemson.

“It just a great thing for our family,” he said. “We just feel very lucky that we’re in a situation where we can do this. It’s a wonderful moment for our family to be able to experience this. It’s no secret how passionate we are about March Madness and college basketball. This is just a great way to experience it for someone who was never really a great athlete. I’m able to experience it as a fan and as a dad. Carmen and I just feel very lucky.”

Clemson has other connections to Dayton. Coach Brad Brownell is in his 14th season at Clemson after four seasons at Wright State. His associate head coach is Billy Donlon, who succeeded Brownell at Wright State and spent six seasons with the program.

Clemson reached the Elite Eight for the first time since 1980. It still has never reached the Final Four.

The road to the Elite Eight started with victories against No. 11 seed New Mexico and No. 3 Baylor in Memphis in the same arena the Nauseefs visited a decade ago. This time, JP and Carmen posed for a photo with Daniel and Jack outside the Fed Ex Forum.

Jack started the Clemson tradition. He was a walk-on at Clemson the last two seasons before graduating in 2023. He now works in Boston for Black Rock, an investment management and financial services company.

“We must have taken him on 15 different college visits,” said JP, a 1988 University of Dayton graduate. “I always wanted him to go to Dayton, but we were so close to it. I think he wanted to get away from dad and mom’s bubble a little bit.”

At Chaminade Julienne, Jack, a 6-foot-1 guard, ranked second in scoring with 11.9 points per game as a senior in 2018. He wanted to stay close to the sport, his dad said, so he became a manager at Clemson as a freshman and joined the scout team as a sophomore. He became a walk-on as a junior in the summer before the 2021-22 season.

An endorsement from former UD coach Brian Gregory, who JP knows well, helped Jack land a walk-on spot.

“We knew coach Brownell,” JP said. “I had met him, but I didn’t know him well. Then Brian Gregory reintroduced us. We’ve been very, very impressed with coach Brownell and his family and the program they put together. The type of people they recruit on this team, they’re just really good young men. It does remind me of the Dayton team. These are great, exceptional athletes, but they’re also good people with good values, and they really kind of focus on taking care of each other and then that takes care of business on the court.”

Daniel made the team as a walk-on as a freshman after arriving on campus in 2021. Jack earned the same role earlier that summer. Like his brother, Daniel ranked second in scoring at Chaminade Julienne as a senior, averaging 9.9 points in the 2020-21 season. Daniel is 6-7, so his job is to work out the Clemson big men in practice.

Both Nauseefs have gotten on the scoreboard while wearing a Clemson uniform. Jack scored his first and only point at the free-throw line on Senior Night at Littlejohn Coliseum in Clemson, S.C., in 2023.

“It was the very last chance he had,” JP said, “and he made the free throw. Clemson fans erupted. That was really something.”

Jack played a total of 13 minutes in 11 games over his two seasons. Daniel, a microbiology major, has accumulated 19 minutes in 14 games in three seasons. He has four points. His first basket came against Richmond as a sophomore — Jack assisted him on the score — and he added a basket against Notre Dame later that season.

Daniel even earned a minute of playing time in the NCAA tournament in the first round against New Mexico.

The brothers talked about the walk-on experience together in an interview with the Gameball Podcast in 2023. They were asked what their parents think watching them play at Clemson.

“They enjoy everything about it,” Jack said.

“Except they just don’t know the things we go through every day,” Daniel said. “Going up against people twice our size, getting hit — not to say it’s not fun. I mean I love it. I love it so much. But some days are rough. But they get to enjoy it without all the pain and suffering.”

“I think our dad is super proud,” Jack said, “and our mom, too.”

In Los Angeles, the whole Nauseef family has turned out to watch Clemson play some of the biggest games in program history. The youngest brothers are twins. Both will turn 19 next month. Nicholas is a freshman at Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn. William attends the University of Tennessee, which also is in the Elite Eight after an 82-75 victory against Creighton on Friday.

The whole family continues to root for the Flyers, in part, because they know so many of the current walk-ons on the Dayton roster. Evan Dickey and Makai Grant are also CJ graduates. Will Maxwell, of Oakwood, is another local walk-on on the Dayton roster. Alter graduate Brady Uhl earned a scholarship at Dayton after two seasons as a walk-on.

JP knows how much walk-ons contribute to the success of teams like Clemson and Dayton.

“We know how hard they work,” he said. “We have a lot of respect for them. They work out their teammates. They practice just as hard. They’re part of the team. It’s like anything else that we all try to teach our kids. You’re not always going to be the star. You’re not always going to make the team, but if you’re not on the team be the best fan or be the best manager or run the best operation on the court so that the teams can play well. Find your role and be as good as you can be at it. The walk-ons are probably a very exceptional example of that because they do work very hard.”

While JP has been a Flyer fan since his dad moved the family to the area in 1979 to take a job at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, his connection to the NCAA tournament grew because of his responsibilities raising four sons. For years, he would travel to Las Vegas, Nev., to watch the opening weekend of the NCAA tournament. He couldn’t do that anymore with four kids, so he worked with the help of many others in the community to create a family-friendly event centered around the First Four.

That’s how the Big Hoopla, a festival celebrating the start of the NCAA tournament, was born in 2012. The event includes a four-mile run and a STEM challenge every year. Over the years, the Big Hoopla Ticket Program has given away more than 125,000 NCAA tournament tickets to military service people, military families and local students.

Nauseef’s connection to the NCAA tournament has grown this month. He hoped for a Dayton vs. Clemson matchup in the Sweet 16 because he knew he would win either way. Rooting for Clemson feels very similar to rooting for Dayton, he said.

“You’re invested in your team,” Nauseef said, “and you’re invested in the boys and wanting them to play their best and to show the world that whether it’s Dayton or Clemson, which is not recognized for its basketball program, that they can really go out and prove that they can do it. Having our son there as part of the program and having personal relationships with the team members, I don’t know if I’ve really experienced anything like this before.We just feel very lucky to have this life experience and we’re proud of we’re proud of the boys.”

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