Players head into the season with experience and numbers

Josh Johnston

New players fill holes for a title hungry team

Compared to the start of last season, things are already looking up for the Kent State women’s basketball team.

Coming into the 2007-08 season, the Flashes had no returning starters and a very limited bench, and they finished 9-21 overall and 5-11 in the Mid-American Conference.

This year, Kent State coach Bob Lindsay has nearly all of his players returning, plus four new additions.

“I’m a little relieved that I don’t have to play in practice,” Lindsay said. “When I looked down the bench (last season), the only thing I could see were assistant coaches.”

With so much experience on the team, the Flashes have their eyes on their first MAC championship since 2002.

“You always have expectations,” senior guard Asheley Harkins said. “We’ve got expectations to win the MAC championship. That’s what you put the goal at at the beginning of the season, so we’re going to try to work toward that

all season.”

Lindsay agreed that his team has a chance in the postseason.

“They want to win,” he said. “They want to win championships. They’re willing to work hard enough to do it. If we’re fortunate enough, we’ll have a shot at it at the end if we can stay healthy.”

The four new players on Kent State’s roster will add depth to a team that had almost none last year. Forward Lakeshia Levi, center Lorriane Odhiambo and guard/forward Yoshica Spears, all juniors, transferred to Kent State from junior colleges, while guard Jena Stutzman is the Flashes’ only freshman.

“They fit in pretty well,” Harkins said. “We’ve got two post players and another post and another guard who can shoot the ball like crazy. They’re going to fall right into place.”

Last year’s returnees will most likely get the starting nod for the first games, Lindsay said, but the new players will help fill in the gaps for

the Flashes.

“We had some holes in the lineup from a depth standpoint and from a strength standpoint (last season),” he said. “We plugged some holes up, and I’m pretty happy with what I’ve seen so far.”

Stutzman, from Hiland High School in Berlin, is already used to winning championships. During her time in high school, she helped her team to three Division 4 state championship titles.

“She’s really smart on the court,” Lindsay said. “She can really shoot it. She’s got a great basketball IQ. I just think that that’s a winner in this league. She makes freshman mistakes and she’s got all that stuff going on, but you can see all that

in her.”

Levi scored more than 18 points a game while playing for Butler Community College in El Dorado, Kan. Odhiambo, standing at 6-foot-3, adds height to the Flashes’ lineup and will help the team defensively, Lindsay said. Spears can play either forward or guard and Lindsay said she could see time on the court early in the season.

Kent State’s regular season will start Saturday with Youngstown State visiting the M.A.C. Center, and MAC play will begin Jan. 7 against Bowling Green.

Harkins said the team is eager for the season to start.

“We’re ready for games,” she said. “We’re kind of bored with practice and everything for three hours. We’re really excited to get out there and play some games and show everybody that we’re new and improved from last year.”

Contact sports reporter Josh Johnston at [email protected].