KENT: Kent State basketball practice is in full swing as the men’s and women’s teams prepare for the season that kicks off next month.
Both teams will enter the 2013-14 season with their share of newcomers.
The men’s team has at least two starting spots up for grabs with the loss of senior guards Randal Holt and Chris Evans, and the women’s team has eight new players joining five returnees.
“It is a season of change for us in many ways,” women’s coach Danielle O’Banion said. “I really don’t refer to last season as a rebuilding year because that was a foundation year for us. A lot of the progress we’re seeing now — both on the floor and culturally in the locker room — was started by last year’s team.
“But the nice thing about our eight newcomers is that four of them have played college basketball before. So, we’ve got four new freshmen, but everybody else has appeared in a college game before. While we have a lot of new talent, half of it comes with previous college experience.”
Having a handful of experienced players is crucial for the women’s team with only senior guard Ashley Evans and sophomore guard Rachel Mendelsohn returning as starters.
Although the Golden Flashes struggled to a 3-27 mark last year and finished the season on a nine-game losing streak, O’Banion saw flashes of the type of up-tempo offense and aggressive defensive style of play she plans to employ more of this season.
“You could see it in the way we started the first and second halves last year,” she said. “But being undermanned for a majority of a season in which the injury bug got to us, it was something we couldn’t sustain. So this year, we look to be able to play that style more often and for longer periods of time.”
Although the men’s team lost Holt and Evans, its top two scorers, the addition of junior guard Derek Jackson should go a long way toward picking up the offensive slack. A Cleveland native and former Benedictine standout, Jackson originally was recruited by Kent State, but opted to start his college career at Central Michigan.
Jackson played two seasons at CMU before leaving after a coaching change. Because NCAA rules prohibit a player from transferring within the conference right away, he enrolled at Cleveland’s Cuyahoga Community College, from which he graduated (but did not play).
“Right now, Derek’s our best defensive player,” said men’s coach Rob Senderoff. “His sophomore year at Central, he finished fifth in the league in steals and has continued to improve over the offseason.”
The Flashes will host a Hoops ’n’ Halloween trick-or-treating event from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Oct. 26 that is free to the public.
The event will begin with an hour of activities including trick-or-treating throughout the M.A.C. Center, with stops in a haunted hallway and the teams’ locker rooms. On-court activities with the players will include free throws, half-court shots and skills challenges. Guests are encouraged to dress up and participate in the costume contest, which will be judged by KSU basketball players. Winning contestants will then help judge a slam-dunk contest.
The men’s season starts Nov. 8 against Ohio Northern at the M.A.C. Center. The women’s team will host an exhibition game Nov. 6 against Walsh University before tipping off the regular season four days later against visiting Eastern Kentucky University.