Season never ends for Christian, team

Deanna Stevens

The Kent State athletics slogan is “On the hunt.” And this season, the men’s basketball team actually was.

With a roster composed of two returning seniors, nine underclassmen and a 6-foot-3 center, the Flashes were expected to fall prey to the fierce competition of the Mid-American Conference.

“We had a lot of new players,” Kent State coach Jim Christian said. “So there had to be a lot of teaching. It was fun watching this team grow and gain an identity.”

And that identity developed out of the early-season growing pains.

Kent State was predicted to finish third in the MAC, and early in the season, when the Flashes were hovering at .500, that No. 3 spot looked accurate, if not generous.

But Kent State finished with a 21-11 record, making it their ninth-consecutive 20-win season. They also had big wins against George Mason, MAC-tournament champion Miami, and MAC regular-season champion Toledo. The Flashes also played well in tough road losses to Duke and Butler.

Christian said the Flashes’ upswing coincided with the experience the young players gained as the season went on.

“We knew coming in that our young guys were going to play a valuable role for us, and we had to get them some experience,” Christian said. “They picked up our system a lot quicker than I thought they would, and it not only helped our team, but it helped them gain an understanding of what our program needs to be about.”

Two of those freshmen, guards Chris Singletary and Rodriquez Sherman, made their impact felt throughout the MAC, earning a spot on the MAC All-Freshman squad.

Next season, the Flashes will looking for their 10th-consecutive 20-win season.

“I don’t think you ever waver from that, because the moment you do, you don’t take care of your business,” Christian said. “We have a lot of work to do to get there, but I think this is a very, very big spring and summer for the guys on our team.”

And Christian said the Flashes have to put in the work now.

“We do a lot of weight training,” Christian said. “We’ll lift five days a week starting Monday. And then we start doing individual instruction where we get on the floor and work with them individually on skill development and deficiencies they might have that became visible throughout the year.”

But next season, the Flashes probably won’t be considered the favorite in the MAC.

“We’ve never been picked to win it, and we probably won’t be picked to win it next year,” Christian said. “And that’s OK with us.”

Forwards Mike Scott and Haminn Quaintance, in his second season with the team, will be the lone seniors.

“It starts with the two seniors,” Christian said. “I don’t separate them. I don’t care how long you’ve been here. Leadership is something when you’re a senior. that you have to provide to the new and the younger players in the program.”

And underclassmen will continue to outnumber the upperclassmen next season. But the incoming Flashes will be a little more experienced than the average freshman.

The team signed four new players, including Schoolcraft Junior College teammates Korey Spates, a sophomore point guard, and Gabriel Garcia, a sophomore center. Sophomore small forward Rashad Woods from Lee Junior College and small forward Antonio DiMaria from Bishop Canevin High School in Pittsburgh will join the Schoolcraft teammates.

“I’m really excited to have those guys,” Christian said. “Plus, with the guys we have coming back, we’re going to have a deep (team). It will be very competitive in terms of practice every day. So its going to be interesting to watch practice and the competition these guys have.”

Contact men’s basketball reporter Deanna Stevens at [email protected].