COLUMN: It’s not one MVP, it’s nine

Kali Price

Every team has that one leader. That one go-to guy.

But the Kent State men’s basketball team doesn’t have one of those players.

It has nine.

In the Flashes’ 77-62 win over the Western Michigan Broncos last night, five players put up double figures. No single player stepped up, but each of the players who had significant minutes made a significant impact on the game’s outcome.

But the two players that made the most impact on the score were senior guard DeAndre Haynes and junior guard Armon Gates. Although Haynes trailed team scoring leader senior guard Jay Youngblood by one point, Haynes still put up record numbers.

Haynes’ three steals put him in first place in Kent State history for career steals with 200. He also passed the 1,000-point mark last night as he put up 12 points.

“He’s one of the best guards in this conference,” Western Michigan coach Steve Hawkins said. “I’m a huge fan of his.”

Along with Haynes, Gates had one of his best games of the season, pulling down five defensive rebounds and scoring 11 points.

“I felt comfortable doing what I did today,” Gates said. “It was my time to come in and help my team out.”

Throughout the season, every single player has had his time to come in and help the team out.

Saturday it was Youngblood. Jan. 10 it was junior guard Omni Smith and senior forward Kevin Warzynski.

At the beginning of the season, it was supposed to be the team’s four seniors who stepped up to lead the team to an NCAA tournament bid in March.

But so far, the whole team – and the four seniors – are taking the Flashes past the Mid-American Conference tournament.

So far, the future is looking bright for the Flashes, with a 5-0 record in the MAC and an 11-5 overall record. Kent State coach Jim Christian is already close to having another season with at least 20 wins.

The team looks completely different than it did at the beginning of the season. The men have matured more and come together to click as a team that looks like it can make it past the MAC tournament.

“It’s a game you have to play with enthusiasm,” Christian said. “Basketball’s a kind of game where you have to wear your heart on your sleeve.”

And the enthusiasm has definitely helped. As Haynes pointed out, everyone’s stepping up and making his own contributions to keep the Flashes one of the best teams in the MAC.

“I’m happy with the way our players (are) stepping up and playing,” Haynes said. “Not too long ago, somebody asked me if there’s an MVP on our team. And I said no. As you look tonight, Armon (Gates), he stepped up, he made some big plays, got some big rebounds for us tonight.

“Any given night, anyone can step up. Every player, whoever steps out on that floor, you never know who’s going to step up for us tonight. They come out, they do some spectacular things for us. I just appreciate them doing that for me and for the seniors this year, and hopefully we’ll continue to play like that.”

Contact sports editor Kali Price at [email protected].