High hopes follow tradition

Brock Harrington

Winning at least 20 games in seven straight seasons makes the expectations for the Kent State men’s basketball team high.

Three different coaches, dozens of different players in those seven seasons still produces the same result – 20 wins and a trip to postseason play.

“We’re proud of the streak, guys like Nate Gerwig and DeAndre Haynes have been here for most of it, and they would like to go out being successful,” Kent State coach Jim Christain said.

The Flashes will start four seniors this year, all of whom saw significant time last season. Leading the way is a talented set of guards, DeAndre Haynes and Jay Youngblood, who together combined to average nearly 20 points a game last year.

Haynes was also the team leader in assists with more than six a game.

One of the best players returning to the squad is senior Kevin Warzynski.

Warzynski was the leading rebounder on last year’s team with 4.7 per game, not to mention the second leading scorer with 11.5 points per game.

The 6-foot-8-inch senior from South Carolina was the Flashes’ best free throw shooter at 76 percent from the line, as well as the team’s leading 3-point shooter last year at 44 percent.

Senior Nate Gerwig and junior Armon Gates will round out the starting line-up. Gerwig, a 6-foot-9 center, will be counted on to fight for rebounds. Last year he averaged nearly four a game.

Such parity is important to Christian, who said there will be no one player more important than the team, and added that he doesn’t know who the leading scorer will be because he would like to see everyone contribute. Christian said all the seniors are the same to him, and instead of seeing one player improve, he would rather see the team as a whole improve.

“My expectations for this team is the same every year – improve everyday,” Christian said.  

The Flashes begin their regular season with the South Padre Island Invitational on Nov. 21. After four head-to-head non-conference games, the Flashes will play in the Saint Mary’s Holiday Classic in California on Dec. 21 and 22.

The last non-conference game the Flashes play will be one of their toughest games of the season when they travel to Syracuse for a game in the Carrier Dome. Syracuse is No. 16 in the AP preseason poll, the only ranked team the Flashes have on their schedule.

Once the non-conference games are over, the Flashes enter the Mid-American Conference season, where the Flashes have done extremely well under coach Jim Christian, who has a 36-18 overall record in the MAC. Christian has also won the MAC East Division two out of the past three years.

The Flashes were picked to finish third in the MAC East in the MAC preseason poll. Standing in their way is the Ohio Bobcats, who were picked to place first, and who else but Kent State’s rival, Akron.

Akron is lead by Romeo Travis, a 6-foot-7 junior who was also named to the preseason All-MAC East team.

“(Travis) is a good player, very athletic and one of the better players in the league” Christian said.

Ohio is returning its top three players from last year, Jeremy Fears, Mychal Green, and Leon Williams. Ohio won the MAC last year, beating Kent State in the MAC Tournament final, 62-55, and went to the NCAA tournament.

Contact sports correspondent Brock Harrington at [email protected].