Men’s team shoots for stars this season

Doug Gulasy

The slogan surrounding this season’s Kent State men’s basketball team is “Shooting For 10 Years of 20-Win Seasons,” but senior Mike Scott has loftier goals than that.

“Our goal is not to lose a game and win the NCAA Tournament, that’s what I always say. Shoot for those stars,” Scott said. ” . Honestly, I try not to put a limitation on our team because I find that sets us back. If we think we’re just only going to win the MAC, then what’s that say about us?”

While the Associated Press didn’t rank the Flashes No. 1 in the country when it released its preseason men’s basketball poll, the Mid-American Conference News Media Association ranked them as the best in the MAC. Kent State was picked to win both the MAC East and MAC Tournament in the conference’s preseason poll.

Scott said the feeling surrounding the team with the Flashes being favorites is no different than in previous years, when other teams were picked to win the MAC.

“I’ve pretty much adopted (coach Jim Christian’s) view on that,” Scott said. “It doesn’t matter if they pick us at the top or the bottom. We’re going to do what we do.”

The team returns nine players who saw playing time a season ago, including all five starters from the end of last season, which saw the team win 12 of its final 15 games to finish with a 21-11 record.

Although all five starters are coming back, Christian makes no guarantees the same five will start this season.

“These guys – and I’m trying to create that – they really don’t care who starts,” he said. “We had 11 guys last year on the roster, (and) 10 started a game. It doesn’t really make a difference; they know they’re going to play. If they play well, they’re going to play; if they don’t play well, then they have to earn their spot.”

Added to the returning players are four newcomers, including three junior-college transfers.

Though Christian said he changes the system slightly each year to fit new players, he said the overall game plan has stayed mostly constant.

“Defensively, we’re not tweaking much. That’s our staple, that’s kind of what we want to do,” he said. “But we’re able to, because of our depth, do some different things. Offensively, I think we’re doing some different things just to take advantage of our personnel, but for the most part we’re still the same.”

Eleven of the Flashes’ 13 players have seen regular season action at the Division I level, giving the team depth it might not have had a season ago.

“With injuries and stuff like that, things that happen, that depth is going to help a lot,” sophomore guard Chris Singletary said. “Last year, when someone in the starting lineup was to get injured, that would mean we would have to shorten up the rotation. This year, it’s like unlimited rotation.”

That depth might help the Flashes in a tough MAC East division. Four of the six teams in the MAC East had winning records a season ago, and those teams all return some of their key players as well.

“The MAC is always a tough conference because you really don’t get an automatic bid (to the NCAA Tournament); you’ve got to win the (MAC) Tournament,” Singletary said. “I think that’s why the conference is so tough because (like) everybody, we’re fighting to win the tournament to go to the NCAA Tournament, so I think it’s going to be really big.

“But I think our depth is going to separate us from a lot of teams because I don’t think a lot of teams have that depth like that. So I think if we just come out and play hard, everybody come to play on every night, we’ll be pretty good.”

As for that 10th consecutive year of 20-plus wins .

“I’d be lying if I said we didn’t want to do it,” Scott said. “That’s the staple of the program, that’s a recruiting tool and that’s just what Kent State has been known for, for so long. It’s up there with some elite teams, and we definitely want to keep it going. We’re going to do our best to make sure that happens.”

And if the Flashes “shoot for those stars,” the team could accomplish more than just 20 wins this season, perhaps even reaching Scott’s lofty goals.

Contact men’s basketball reporter Doug Gulasy at [email protected].