Column: The Flashes didn’t lose all their leaders

Sean Joseph

All eyes are on the new leadership of the Kent State basketball team to see how it can replace names like DeAndre Haynes, Nate Gerwig, Jay Youngblood and Kevin Warzynski.

What the Flashes will lack from losing four seniors they will make up with players they still have who know how to win — and not only players, but a coaching staff as well.

Senior guard Armon Gates was a redshirt freshman when Kent State made it to the Elite Eight in 2002.

The Flashes won a Mid-American Conference Championship and advanced to the NCAA Tournament last year senior guard Omni Smith’s first year on the team. Smith will only expect to go further in his second and last year as a Flash.

Sophomore Jordan Mincy, the team’s starting point guard this season, led the Flashes to a win in the MAC Tournament against Buffalo last season when DeAndre Haynes got into foul trouble early.

And Jim Christian can coach and scheme with the best in the NCAA. He has led the Flashes to no less than 20 wins in each of his four seasons in charge of the program.

I don’t think anyone can look at the experience of this year’s squad and say it will fail to meet the expectations of Kent State basketball. I don’t even know where the MAC pre-season poll gets off predicting the Flashes will finish behind Akron and Ohio this season.

Kent State has a chance to compete with what the “experts” call the best talent in the NCAA this year.

Next month, while the student body is home for the holidays, the Flashes will take on Duke in a nationally-televised game on ESPN. This is a chance for Kent State to showcase its talent and get some practice against a team that plays deep into the NCAA Tournament every year.

But it’s not only the non-conference portion of Kent State’s schedule that will have them playing March Madness quality opponents. Even Akron has been getting votes in the Top 25 polls, and nobody can forget about Ohio and Toledo.

Look for the MAC preseason polls to possibly predict the regular-season standings, but for the tournament outcome to be like last year’s — with Kent State at the top.

Contact sports editor Sean Joseph at [email protected].