Traveling takes its toll on men’s basketball team



Rachel Jones

The Kent State men’s basketball team left for Miami, Ohio on Tuesday, and they aren’t coming back until next Tuesday.

The Flashes (17-7, 8-2 Mid-American Conference) must play at Drexel on Feb. 18 and at Western Michigan on Feb. 21 as part of their swing of four road games in 10 days before returning to Kent.

Kent State faces tough competition at Miami (13-12, 8-3 MAC) Wednesday, but the players have more on their minds than game plans and MAC standings.

“It’s tough on several fronts,” said Geno Ford, Kent State men’s basketball coach. “The guys have so many things pulling them in so many directions, so it’ll be a tough week for us.”

Obviously, there is the basketball part.

At their last matchup on Jan. 23, the Flashes defeated the RedHawks 78-57.

But Miami was missing Julian Mavunga. The forward, who leads his team in rebounds (7.2 per game) and points (14.1 points per game), will be back on the court Wednesday.

Fresh off an 84-77 victory over Northern Illinois on Feb. 12, the Flashes are hoping to use strong defense to combat Mavunga and add to their six-game winning streak.

“We were fortunate to do well at Northern Illinois,” Ford said. “But we told our guys, ‘You’re never going to be fresher than you are in the beginning.’”

Ford said the physically demanding parts of the road series are not only from the games, but that players can’t get into routines.

The players may not get to sleep in the same bed every night or eat the same food, but freshman forward Mark Henniger said they do have a “typical” road game routine. This consists of meals, walk-throughs and plenty of rest before tipoff.

Not to mention plenty of traveling.

“Away games are fun because you get to be with your teammates, and we become like brothers,” Henniger said. “But long bus rides and going through airport security are not fun.”

It’s also not fun to be behind in every class.

While Henniger joked that missing school all week will be fun, he said the make-up work will be tough to handle.

The players already miss one-and-a-half to two days of class each week, but the extra days this week means more homework on the go.

“There’s only so much studying you can do sitting on a bus or an airplane,” Ford said.

But Ford’s biggest concern for the next few games is the lack of opportunity to practice.

“There’s not much you can do,” Ford said. “Guys get tired. They’re not robots.”

Going into the game on a winning streak and with a first place ranking in the MAC East, the Flashes will arrive at Miami with confidence.

But Ford said the players can’t “stub their toes” Wednesday if they want to keep that positive attitude alive.

“We only have one senior,” Ford said. “It’s not like we have a bunch of old, grizzled veterans who have done this for four years. Hopefully, we have some younger guys who can carry themselves like they know what to do.”

Contact Rachel Jones at [email protected].