KENT: The Kent State basketball team tips off the season in just eight days when it hosts Ohio Northern at the M.A.C. Center. Yet, the Golden Flashes still have two starting positions up in the air.
The Flashes have 16 players on the roster, with two transfers who must sit out the 2013-14 season under NCAA rules. Even though that leaves 14 players eligible to play next week, the whole group hasn’t been together often during preseason camp.
“It’s been very rare that we’ve had all 16 guys practice,” coach Rob Senderoff said. “And of the 14 that can play, we’ve had a variety of guys out of the lineup for one reason or another with some sort of injury or whatever the case may be. In fact, [Tuesday] was the first day I can remember that we had everyone back.”
Junior guard Kris Brewer is just returning to full participation following a minor knee operation in the spring to remove a painful cyst. Neither Brewer nor Senderoff expect him to take long to shake off the rust and regain his regular-season conditioning.
With Brewer back in the mix, Kent State returns three starters from last year’s team that went 21-14 and advanced to the second round of the CollegeInsider.com Tournament. The Flashes must replace guards Chris Evans and Randal Holt, the team’s top two scorers from last season.
For a team that doesn’t feature one particular standout player, the Flashes will have to split the bulk of the scoring between returning Brewer and returning senior forwards Darren Goodson and Mark Henniger.
Brewer is the top returning scorer after averaging 9.2 points per game last season. As a sophomore, his first full season as the point guard, he ranked third in the MAC in 3-point shooting (.427) and 10th in assists (2.7).
Goodson struggled through the nonconference portion of the schedule last year before becoming a force for the Flashes in the Mid-American Conference. Against MAC opponents, he averaged 11.1 points and shot 41 percent on 3-pointers.
Henniger (Jackson High School) moves into a permanent starting role for the first time after making all but 10 starts last season.
Still, Senderoff isn’t sure what his first lineup of the season will look like.
“There’s still some spots up for grabs,” he said. “There’s two starting positions that I’m not 100 percent sure with, although I’m probably 90 percent sure. But more importantly, the rotation behind that is still very much up for grabs and it changes day by day.”
No respect in polls
Neither of KSU’s men’s or women’s basketball teams were pleased to learn earlier this week that they weren’t picked to be much of a factor in the MAC this season.
With his team picked to finish fourth in the MAC East Division and not a single player listed among the Preseason All-MAC East Division team, Senderoff made it clear he wants his players to use the perceived slight as motivational fuel.
“My expectation is for these guys to play with a chip on their shoulders,” Senderoff said.
Last year’s team started out with the same preseason ranking and came on strong down the stretch to finish third in the division.
“We will come out and play hard every night, play with a chip on our shoulder and try to win the MAC,” Goodson said. “I want to win the MAC. It’s my senior year.”
The women’s team, which won just three games last season in a major rebuilding overhaul under first-year coach Danielle O’Banion, was picked last in the East Division as voted on by the 12 conference head coaches.
As with the men’s team, none of the women were voted to the Preseason All-MAC East Team. That was a fact that irked senior point guard Ashley Evans, one of the Flashes’ tri-captains, who posted the poll on Instagram and sent it to all of her teammates.
Junior guard Melanee Stubbs will miss the entire season while recovering from an ACL tear suffered during the offseason.
“Mel’s still going to help us,” O’Banion said. “She’ll offer us a different perspective because she sees the game as a coach. She also earned a great compliment the other day in practice from one of her teammates [guard Mikell Chinn], who said, ‘We don’t know that you’re not playing because you’re so engaged in practice. You’re constantly giving feedback, constantly providing support.’ ”
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.