Flashes’ lone senior preps teammates for tournament

Rachel Jones

With 10 new players on the Kent State men’s basketball team this season, competing in the Mid-American Conference Tournament this weekend will be a first-time experience for nearly the whole team.

Senior guard Rod Sherman, who will be entering the tournament for the third time in his career, plans on helping his teammates prepare for what’s in store for them at the Quicken Loans Arena Thursday.

After the traditional senior dinner before the March 4 game against Akron, it is clear the younger players look up to the lone veteran on the team.

“All the teammates say I motivate them to try to do better, be better and that I’m a good role model,” Sherman said. “That really touched me.”

Rod Sherman’s stat line:

Played and started in 30 games this season.

Points per game: 12.9

Minutes per game: 30.8

Free throw shooting: 75.7 percent

Field goal percentage: 46.8 percent

Conference field goal percentage: 50.3 percent

3-point percentage: 40.6 percent

Kent State coach Geno Ford said Sherman was always more of a lead-by-example player than a vocal leader, but that changed when he adjusted to his role as a senior.

“Rod went from a guy who I couldn’t get to say two words his first three years to now we get in a huddle, and I have to wait 20 seconds to address the team because he’s screaming at someone for not blocking out,” Ford said.

While the team has done better since Sherman started vocalizing, there is no hard and fast rule he could tell his teammates that could sum up what they can expect at the tournament.

“It’s very wishy-washy because anybody can win it,” Sherman said. “It’s like a new season just started over again, so you really need to go out there and compete.”

The neutral site and one-and-done eliminations also help level the playing field.

Going in as the No. 1 seed, the Flashes (21-10, 12-4 MAC) can feel a bit confident, but Ford said the team will still have to play its hardest.

“To me, the tournament’s wide open,” Ford said. “We’re not invincible. Whatever game we don’t play well in will be our last game. We can’t play poorly and win because there are a lot of great teams.”

Ford said the main difference between a regular season championship and a MAC Tournament championship is the determining factors.

As the regular season champions, Kent State had to fight through traveling and over-packed game schedules to come out on top.

In the tournament, it really comes down to luck.

While the thrill of advancing to the next round is greater than a regular season win, the sting of a loss is also a lot worse.

Ohio University handed the Flashes a first-round loss last year, and even though it still hurts, Sherman said he is determined to make sure his teammates do not endure the same pain.

“That loss we had to Ohio last year has stuck with me this whole year,” Sherman said. “I can’t accept that, and I’m sure my teammates will agree.”

The team can also agree that everyone needs to bring their best game to the tournament if they don’t want to repeat last year.

“We’re a gut-it-out team, and we build ourselves off of toughness,” Sherman said. “If we’re tougher, we’ll get it together.”

Contact Rachel Jones at [email protected].