Hoops for the holidays

Kali Price

Team spends holidays together

Kevin Warzinski and Jay Youngblood ring in the holiday season.

Credit: Jason Hall

For most students, finals week is full of cramming, study groups and late nights.

But for the members of the Kent State men’s basketball team, finals week is full of cramming, study groups, late nights and practice.

And when finals week is over for most students, there’s a month-long break to relax and spend the holidays with family and friends after a hectic semester.

But winter break for the Flashes is just a month off classes, but only two days from basketball.

Players like senior Jay Youngblood and freshman Jordan Mincy each have four finals and have to balance it with a tough practice schedule.

Mincy also has to deal with the added pressure of finishing up his first semester of college as well.

“I have just as much work as any other freshman,” Mincy said, “but it takes a lot more work with the practice schedule.”

But Youngblood and fellow senior Kevin Warzynski have been dealing with balancing finals and practice for four years.

“It’s real tough,” Warzynski said. “Class is most important. But we have to be focused all of the time. With all the studying we’re doing, it’s hard to be focused on the court and deal with everything.”

Youngblood said the practice schedule is different during finals and players come in for individual work and team practices are scheduled at different times also.

But like most students, the players hold high expectations for themselves to finish up the Fall 2005 semester strong.

And not only are academic expectations high, Youngblood and Warzynski said Kent State coach Jim Christian’s expectations on the court are the same as any other day.

“He (Christian) expects us just to perform as much,” Warzynski said. “Expectations after are just as high, if not higher because at Christmas time, there’s no classes, so we’re just focusing on basketball.”

So instead of being able to relax and shop for last-minute gifts, the team will travel to Moraga, Calif. for the Saint Mary’s Holiday Classic.

The Flashes will play Concordia on Dec. 21 and Saint Mary’s the next day.

Many of the players said they’re excited to go to California.

Mincy, who is from Memphis, said he’ll hopefully make it to the beach during the trip.

The team will be flying back to Kent on Dec. 23, but without Warzynski, who will be going back to Mount Pleasant, S.C.

“I’ll be leaving California at noon, and I’m going straight to South Carolina,” Warzynski said. “I won’t get home until around 11 at night (because of the 4-hour time change).”

Youngblood, who hails from Detroit, and Mincy said they will both be making the short drive home.

But not only is the trip not as long for Youngblood and Mincy as it is for Warzynski, the days off aren’t as long either.

“We go home for 48 hours,” Youngblood said.

The players only get Christmas Eve and Christmas Day off to spend with their families and use Dec. 23 and 26 as travel days.

But despite the little time the players get with their families over the holidays, their parents are still supportive.

“My family came to Texas, for the South Padre tournament (which was over Thanksgiving break),” Mincy said.

Mincy also had the same problem in high school.

“We played at the Beachland Classic in South Carolina last year,” Mincy said. “But this is the first time I’ll not be home for as much time as usual.”

After a few days of practice after Christmas, the Flashes will play at Syracuse on Dec. 30, which won the NCAA Championship in 2003.

“I’m pumped,” Mincy said.

The team will also face former coach Rob Murphy, who left the Flashes and began at Syracuse last season.

“I think it’s a different mentality because it’s a Big East school,” Youngblood said. “Everybody’s going to be pumped up. I know for me, personally, (Murphy’s) the assistant coach over there. He recruited me and he left.”

After the game, the Flashes will come back to Kent to finish preparing for the upcoming Mid-American Conference schedule.

For New Year’s Eve, Youngblood and Warzynski said the team will probably ring in 2006 together.

The Flashes start the MAC season by hosting Toledo at 5:30 p.m. on Jan. 4 at the M.A.C. Center.

“It’s our (the seniors) last season and we haven’t had a MAC championship here in four years,” Warzynski said. “We want to bring another one back.”

Contact assistant sports editor Kali Price at [email protected].