Flashes look for fresh start in 2009

Cody Erbacher

Men’s basketball opens season with three game tournament at home

After its 10-year streak of 20-win seasons was snapped last season, the Kent State basketball team looks to start a new era this season.

The Flashes open this regular season with a home tournament, the Hispanic College Fund Classic, against Green Bay, Samford and the University of Alabama at Birmingham this weekend.

Kent State coach Geno Ford said playing a tough nonconference schedule will prepare the team for a potential postseason appearance.

“We did the same thing this year as we did last year – we scheduled hard,” Ford said. “Our nonconference schedule is hard enough that if we have a good record we can get a postseason berth.”


UAB vs. Green Bay at 5 p.m. Friday

Kent vs. SAMFORD at 7 p.m. Friday

Green Bay vs. SAMFORD at 5 p.m. Saturday

Kent vs. UAB at 7 p.m. Saturday

SAMFORD vs. UAB at 2 p.m. Sunday

Kent vs. GREEN BAY at 4 p.m. Sunday

GREEN BAY vs. ROCHESTER (MICH.) at 6 p.m. Sunday

Luckily for the Flashes, they will play the first three games at home, the most any Kent State men’s basketball team has opened a season with since 1995-96.

“We love to play at home,” senior guard Mike McKee said. “We feel the most comfortable in this building. We love when the fans come out, and we’re used to playing in this gym every day, so that brings a level of comfort.”

The Flashes also return six seniors, the most any Kent State team has had since the 1991-92 season. The mix of seniors includes McKee and guard Tyree Evans, who are both major threats from behind the arc.

McKee shot 35 percent from the three-point line and Evans shot 40 percent last season.

McKee said with the experience the team is bringing back, he believes Kent State will play better than it did last season.

“Without a doubt we have a chance of winning 20 games,” McKee said. “We have a lot of experience, and we have a lot of team chemistry. Definitely we have a chance to get back on track.”

But the focus isn’t on winning 20 games.

“I’ve been here for seven years, and we’ve never talked about winning 20 games, and we didn’t this year,” Ford said.

The season begins with tonight’s game against Samford.

Similar to Kent State, Samford is starting the season with experience. The Bulldogs are returning four starters and 11 letter-winners. The starters averaged 43 points and 14 rebounds per game last season.

Ford said all games in the Hispanic College Fund Classic will be tough, but Samford is going to be Kent State’s toughest task.

“(Samford) plays a very unique style,” he said. “They are very deliberate on offense and they take great shots. We’re excited for the challenge.”

Kent State doesn’t get much time to rest as it continues the tournament tomorrow against UAB.

The Blazers went 22-12 last season, and made their second-straight appearance in the National Invitational Tournament. However, UAB is young, as the team lost six seniors and added eight new players this season.

“It’s early in the year, and these types of games are usually close,” Ford said. “Whatever you struggle with on Friday night you will have no time to recover for Saturday.”

On the last day of the three-game weekend series Kent State is set to play Green Bay.

Green Bay, who was 22-11 last year, finished second in the Horizon League behind Butler. The Phoenix returns three of their starters from last year’s team.

Regardless of the outcome, Ford said the team isn’t going to be defined by this weekend. It is going to take a whole season to determine who this team is.

“I like this team,” Ford said. “I like our potential, but we’ve got to get tougher and we’ve got to show it over an extended period of time.”

Contact sports reporter Cody Erbacher at [email protected].