2008-09 Kent State Basketball Preview: #41
Kent State Golden Flashes
Overall Rank: #41
Conference Rank: #1 MAC
2007-08: 28-7, 13-3, 1st East
2007-08 postseason: NCAA
Even with a new coach and a new frontcourt, Kent State is still among the favorites, if not the favorite, to win the Mid-American Conference title. The new head man, Geno Ford, spent the last four years by the side of former coach Jim Christian and the transition should be a seamless one. The Golden Flashes have won at least 20 games in each of the last ten seasons. Coach Ford will make it 11.
But it will not be easy without Haminn Quaintance and Mike Scott in the frontcourt. The 6-8 Quaintance was the force under the basket. He could score consistently in the paint, averaging 10.0 points and led the team in rebounds with 7.5 per contest. On the offensive side of the floor, Scott used his outside shooting ability to stretch out the defense. Both were quality defenders and Quaintance blocked 2.0 shots per game. Fellow forward Isaac Knight has also wrapped up his career at Kent State.
And, of course, this recruiting class will answer the questions up front. There are five scholarship newcomers and all of them are between 6-6 and 6-8. Anthony Simpson is the one who has the highest expectations this year. The 6-8 junior college transfer will not score as much as Quaintance, but he can battle in the paint, grab rebounds and block a shot or two. Fellow junior college transfer Frank Henry-Ala plays a little like Scott. He can hit the outside shot relatively well, but Henry-Ala is not afraid to mix it up in the paint and do his job on the glass. Incoming freshmen Justin Greene and Alex Grimsley will likely spend some time learning on the bench for now. Antonio DiMaria can play the power forward spot in the MAC, but the 6-7 redshirt freshman is better off on the wing where he can utilize his shooting and athletic abilities. Trouble has followed Tyree Evans everywhere he has gone, but the guard will make an impact anywhere he ends up if he can put those problems behind him. Evans committed to Cincinnati out of high school, but ended up at a prep school and a couple community colleges since then. He signed with Maryland in the spring, only to be released from his scholarship following off-court issues. Now he is a walk-on at Kent State and, if it works out, that is one heck of a walk-on.
Who to Watch:
The backcourt might have the talent, but even in the MAC the frontcourt has to do something. Two years ago Julian Sullinger averaged 8.1 points and 3.6 rebounds per game. Last season those numbers took a big drop. Sullinger is almost a starter by default, at least until the newcomers gain some experience, so it will be vital that he produces like he did as a sophomore now that he will likely see 20-25 minutes a game. Besides Sullinger, Rashad Woods and Brandon Parks are the only returning forwards on the roster. Woods is a decent shooter when given the opportunity but, at 6-5, he is more of a guard who is better off coming in off the bench and shooting threes.
The Flashes return five guards who started at least 13 games last year. Sometimes having so many players start is a sign that the team was desperately looking for the right combination of mediocre players…that is not the case with KSU. This is a very talented group that, if they can effectively add Evans, will have more talent than many big time programs. Al Fisher is the leader of the group and the team. The 6-1 point guard averaged 13.9 points, 4.0 assists and 3.8 rebounds en route to MAC Player of the Year honors. And that was his first year with the team after spending a couple seasons at the junior college level. Now a senior, Fisher can lead this group to big things. Fisher might be able to score with ease, but he can create shots for his backcourt mates as well. Chris Singletary is most often the beneficiary and tallied 10.3 points per game a year ago. Mike McKee is the shooter of the group, Jordan Mincy is the defensive specialist and Rodriquez Sherman does a little bit of everything. With such a talented backcourt, the team will not need much production out of the frontcourt. If Sullinger, Simpson and company can give the threat of scoring and grab some rebounds and play defense, Kent State will win the MAC and record another 20 win season.
Projected Post-season Tournament: NCAA
Projected Starting Five:
Al Fisher, Senior, Guard, 13.9 points per game
Mike McKee, Junior, Guard, 5.5 points per game
Chris Singletary, Junior, Guard, 10.3 points per game
Julian Sullinger, Senior, Forward, 3.6 points per game
Anthony Simpson, Junior, Forward, DNP last season