The ups and downs of a youthful team

Jonas Fortune

I am not a huge fan of roller coasters. The dizziness and headaches just don’t seem as appealing as they did in my youth. But as I’ve watched the men’s basketball season unfold, I sometimes feel as if I just got off the Corkscrew.

So far this season, we have seen the Flashes hang tough for a half with No. 7 Ohio State. They gave Butler, which is now ranked 18th, all they could handle in two overtimes before ultimately falling. And let’s not forget the dogfight the Flashes put on the then sixth ranked Duke Blue Devils before they finally pulled ahead of the for good. The Flashes whipped in and out of contention in all three games, narrowly missing victories against some of the NCAA’s best, but every high point has been been followed by a low.

After Butler came a disappointing loss at Cleveland State. After Duke, the Flashes left a dud on the court against Youngstown State, a game head coach Jim Christian called a low point in his tenure here. But this season isn’t supposed to be easy for Christian and his Flashes.

Many felt this would be a rebuilding year for the defending Mid-American Conference Champions, and it has often looked like that.

Long gone is the stability that graduates Jay Youngblood and DeAndre Haynes provided in the backcourt. The pair combined for more than 25 points a game last season. Haynes could possibly find his name hanging from the rafters one day; he holds Kent State career records in assists, steals and minutes played.

Graduation also took its toll on the frontcourt as Nate Gerwig and MAC Sixth Man of the Year, Kevin Warzynski, both left.

With those four major losses, a near-brand new squad has suited up this season that features just two seniors, two juniors — one is a first-year transfer, three sophomores and five freshmen.

But that’s no excuse for a team that has won at least 20 games for the last eight seasons.

Although Christian realizes it does take time to develop such a young group, getting those 20 wins has become a tradition at Kent State; a tradition that I am sure he does not want to end.

With only 14 games left this season, the burden lies with the players. Senior guard Omni Smith, who has become the heart and soul of this year’s squad, put it best.

“It’s up to us if we want to be a good team or a great team,” Smith said. “You got to come out and listen to coach and execute.”

So with the huge overtime victory Sunday against Ohio, it looks as if the Flashes may have finally found consistency, but Akron would like to send their rivals on another loop tonight.

Contact assistant sports editor Jonas Fortune at [email protected].