KENT: Last week, Kent State basketball coach Rob Senderoff wasn’t ready to name his five starters, even with the basketball season right around the corner.
He knew he’d start his three captains — senior forwards Darren Goodson and Mark Henniger and junior point guard Kris Brewer — in the season opener, but the other two spots were up for grabs.
When the game against Ohio Northern tips off at 7 tonight at the M.A.C. Center in Kent, Golden Flashes fans can expect to see junior guard Dev Manley and junior guard Derek Jackson, a newcomer to the program, rounding out the starting five.
However, Senderoff made it clear that no one should plan to get very comfortable.
“Outside of one or two guys, there’s not a big enough gap between the starter and the next guy,” he said. “Just because guys are starting now, that doesn’t mean they will be in say, three weeks from now. It’s going to be a game-by-game scenario as it’s up in the air at a number of positions on the floor. As a result, I hope the competition makes everyone elevate their games.”
With just two returning starters, Randal Holt and Chris Evans, KSU got off to a slow start last season before finishing strong to notch its 14th 20-win season in the past 15 years and claiming a fourth seed in the Mid-American Conference Tournament.
Kent State defeated Buffalo in the quarterfinal but lost to rival Akron in a semifinal.
The Flashes then hosted a first-round game in the CollegeInsider.com Tournament, defeating Fairfield, before losing to Loyola in the second round.
KSU, which must find replacements for Holt and Evans, once again has been picked to finish fourth this season, according to preseason polls.
One difference is the Flashes don’t expect to have to rely on just one or two main scorers this season.
With a variety of options at each position, Senderoff can ride a hot hand and expects his team will spread out the bulk of the scoring among a handful of players each game.
“This is more a team where there’s three, four, five guys who’ll be close to 10 points a game much more so than a team that has two guys at 15, 16 points and a couple guys at eight to nine points and a few at five to six,” Senderoff said. “I would think that’s going to lend itself to much more balanced scoring.”
Division III Ohio Northern of the Ohio Athletic Conference was 13-14 last season and 8-10 in league play for seventh place. The Polar Bears return four starters, including senior guard Branden Rushton, who led the team with 15.1 points per game and was a second-team All-OAC selection last year.
In addition to a more balanced scoring attack, the Flashes will again need to be scrappy defenders, a style that fits Jackson.
A transfer from Central Michigan after his sophomore season, Jackson is familiar with the MAC and is the kind of defender Senderoff expects from all his Flashes.
A product of Cleveland Benedictine High School, Jackson started all but one game for Central Michigan as a sophomore and averaged 11.5 points, 2.3 rebounds and was third in the MAC with 1.8 steals per game.
“His athleticism and anticipation skills on the defensive side of the ball are really high,” Senderoff said. “He’s still young and has things to work on, but he’s a good starter in this league.”
Stephanie Storm can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Kent State blog at http://www.ohio.com/flashes. Follow her on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/SStormABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.