KSU women’s basketball links experience with new talent


Kent State guard Ashley Evans deflects Walsh University’s Jalynn Graham during the Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2013 game in the M.A.C. Center. The Flashes lost the exhibition game 80-89.

Ben Orner

A new season of college hoops is finally here, and the Kent State women’s basketball team couldn’t be

more ready.

“This team has been very clear that they are determined to make this season our best one yet,” third-year Kent State coach Danielle O’Banion said.

Improvement will be key this season, as the Flashes finished last season 7-23, going only 4-14 in the Mid-American Conference. The team averaged just 55 points per game, ranking the Flashes 329th out of 343 teams in the country.

Though the Flashes did not have any standout scorers last season, they did prove efficient in including everyone in their offensive production.

While no players averaged double-digit points, six players averaged seven or more points per game, with then-senior Ashley Evans and then-junior Montia Johnson both averaging nine points per game.

Evans and two of the seven-plus point scorers are no longer on the team, so Kent State will rely on experience and new talent to make this season better.

“We have a group of seniors who came specifically to Kent State to help that happen, and we also have a core of underclassmen that came to Kent State to ensure that they would be the start of something,” O’Banion said,

There are only three seniors on this year’s team, which will leave room for a new crop of talent to learn under the few experienced upperclassmen. This year’s team includes six freshmen, three sophomores and three juniors.

“We’re on track to mesh our returners and our newcomers together very well,” O’Banion said. “I think there’s a level of respect between our newcomers and returners because we’re all focused on the end goal to be

very successful.”

2014-2015 Kent State Women’s Basketball Schedule

* = MAC game

11/14/2014 North Dakota State University
Fargo, North Dakota

11/18/2014 Youngstown State University
Kent, Ohio

11/21/2014 Northwestern University
Evanston, Illinois

11/25/2014 Belmont University
Kent, Ohio

11/28/2014 Texas A&M – Corpus Christi
San Luis Obispo, California

11/29/2014 Dartmouth College
San Luis Obispo, California

12/3/2014 Duquesne University
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

12/7/2014 Cleveland State University
Cleveland, Ohio

12/17/2014 Arkansas State University
Kent, Ohio

12/21/2014 Colgate University
Hamilton, New York

12/30/2014 New Orleans
New Orleans, Louisiana

1/3/2015 * Central Michigan University
Kent, Ohio

1/7/2015 * University of Toledo
Toledo, Ohio

1/10/2015 * Bowling Green
Kent, Ohio

1/14/2015 * Ball State University
Muncie, Indiana

1/17/2015 * Northern Illinois University
DeKalb, Illinois

1/24/2015 * Western Michigan University
Kent, Ohio

1/28/2015 * Central Michigan University
Mount Pleasant, Michigan

1/31/2015 * University of Akron
Akron, Ohio

2/4/2015 * Eastern Michigan University
Kent, Ohio

2/7/2015 * Ohio University
Athens, Ohio

2/11/2015 * Miami University (Ohio)
Kent, Ohio

2/14/2015 * Northern Illinois University
Kent, Ohio

2/18/2015 * University at Buffalo
Buffalo, New York

2/21/2015 * Bowling Green
Bowling Green , Ohio

2/25/2015 * University of Akron
Kent, Ohio

2/28/2015 * Miami University (Ohio)
Oxford, Ohio

3/4/2015 * Ohio University
Kent, Ohio

3/7/2015 * University at Buffalo
Kent, Ohio

3/9/2015 * Mid-American Conference

3/11-14/2015 * Mid-American Conference
Quicken Loans Arena

Returning for their final seasons as Flashes are senior Johnson and redshirt senior CiCi Shannon. Both women led the team in rebounds and were among the top scorers last season, and Shannon blocked a Mid-American Conference-leading 75 shots.

“CiCi Shannon, at 6-foot-4, is one of the best shot blockers in the MAC,” O’Banion said.

O’Banion said she was pleased with the off season production of her players, especially sophomore guard Larissa Lurken.

“(Lurken) has put on at least five to six pounds of muscle, which for a female, is a significant number of pounds to gain over a summer,” O’Banion said. “She’s shooting the ball very well right now.”

Kent State’s freshman class is poised to be promising, as the class of 2018 will get significant playing time from the coaching staff.

“Two particular freshmen that we can expect to see earlier rather than later in the season would be Naddiyah Cross and Jordan Korinek,”

O’Banion said.

Cross is a 5-foot-6 guard from Centerville, Ohio, who was a McDonald’s All-American nominee in her senior season at Centerville High School. Korinek, a 6-foot-2 product of Cuyahoga Falls, led St. Vincent-St. Mary High School to the Ohio Final Four last year while being ranked the fifth-best player in the state.

With this mixture of new and old, women’s basketball will not be complacent with another 7-23 finish.

“The biggest point of emphasis for this team is to establish some level of consistency, both in individual play and as a team,” O’Banion said. “What I really like about this team is that whether it’s an exhibition game, a closed scrimmage or a modified scrimmage in practice, they compete.”

Kent State will host Ohio Christian University in the M.A.C. Center on Friday at 7 p.m. The game is the Flashes’ first and only exhibition of the season.

Contact Ben Orner at [email protected]