Senderoff adjusting to handful of new players

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11/10/16 Kent State men’s basketball

Nick Buzzelli

Kent State men’s basketball coach Rob Senderoff realizes how tough the Mid-American Conference (MAC) will be this season from an experience standpoint.

Ohio University has 14 players coming back. The University of Akron, which was picked to finish first in the MAC East division, has eight. And reigning champion, the University of Buffalo, has three starters returning.

Kent State’s roster, on the other hand, is composed of four players — red shirt Jimmy Hall, senior Deon Edwin, sophomore Jaylin Walker and sophomore Avery —who saw significant playing time in 2015-16 and 10 who are new to the program.

“When you bring back four, five, six guys, you sort of have an idea of what they can bring … But I have 10 guys here,” said Senderoff, who enters his sixth season as head coach. “If you would have asked me two weeks ago who the top five guys are, and you ask me today, it’s a totally different five. And that’s a problem … I have to figure out who can perform consistently in games.”

As a result, Senderoff anticipates that Hall, Edwin and Jon Fleming, the three seniors, will all take on varying roles this season. Hall will serve as a mentor to freshman Danny Pippen, who has a similar playing style to the Preseason All-MAC East forward.

Edwin, who visits the training room every day to get his body ready for the grind of the season, will lead by example since no one prepares more for practice than him, Senderoff said. And Fleming, a walk-on guard, will be expected to be a vocal leader in the locker room.

“With every team, it’s a process, even if you have returners. So with our new guys, it’s a little tougher,” Fleming said. “But we’re coming along. Coach Senderoff does a great job of teaching and bringing us together, so I think that’s a positive.”

Despite the fact that Senderoff’s starting lineup constantly fluctuates based on what he sees in practice, the team’s preseason closed scrimmage on Saturday will help him gauge what aspects of their game need the most improvement in preparation for the Nov. 12 opener against Cleveland State University.

Much like the scrimmages, the program’s 12 non-conference games, which includes road games against the University of Texas and Oregon State University, will help it prepare for conference play, come January.

“I feel like it’s going to help us a lot,” said Hall, who averaged 16.4 points and 7.9 rebounds per game last season. “We’re going to see where we’re at against some real good competition and have us ready for when MAC play comes and when it gets critical, down to the wire.”

Though playing Texas and Oregon State on national television are important in terms of fan support and program recognition, Senderoff believes that the games against other Mid-Major programs will be the most appropriate indicators of his team’s success late in the season.

“Playing at Northeastern is like playing at Bowling Green (State University). Or it’s like playing at Buffalo. Those are teams that are from similar leagues, have similar resources,” Senderoff said. “If you can’t win at Northeastern, you have to learn from that so you can win at Buffalo when it’s time.”

Nick Buzzelli is a sports reporter, contact him at [email protected]