The new kids on the block

Amanda Fulmer

Veteran Flashes work with first-year players to create chemistry

After losing some key players in the offseason, Kent State coach Jim Christian may have outdone himself recruiting for the 2005-06 Kent State men’s basketball team.

This season’s freshmen recruiting class is boasting a group of diverse and talented players, such as a new point guard to back up senior guard DeAndre Haynes, a 6-foot-4 Pennsylvania sharp shooter and a 6-foot-10 center who turned down Big Ten opportunities to play for the Flashes, just to name a few.

So why did all of these heavily recruited players decide to settle down at Kent?

Jordan Mincy, a point guard from Memphis said out of all the places he visited, Kent just had more of a family atmosphere.

“I got along with everybody,” Mincy said. “Not just a certain group of people but every single guy on the team.”

Brandon Parks, a center from Bunker Hill, Ind., knows exactly what Mincy is talking about.

“When I visited other schools, a lot of the black and white players were all separate and kind of went their own ways,” Parks said. “When I came here, everybody went out together. It just seemed real weird and segregated at other places.”

Parks also received offers to play at Purdue and Penn State.

With such a strong chemistry and feeling of family between the team, the freshmen weren’t intimidated by the strong group of upperclassmen, including four seniors and one junior. The opposite happened, in fact, because the seniors took it upon themselves to show the new guys the ropes and help them in and out of practice.

“It’s just our first year, we are new to everything, and (the upperclassmen) already know what’s going to go on. They are going to know when you’re down,” forward Jordan Sullinger said.

Senior guard Jay Youngblood saw that Sullinger had been having a hard time at some practices, and so he took him out to dinner to cheer him up and let him know what he needs to do to fix things.

“He just looks out for me,” Sullinger said.

Youngblood also helped junior college transfer Omni Smith with adjusting to Kent State.

“He’s from junior college too,” Smith said of Youngblood. “We talk a lot, and he has really helped me through tough times.”

Like Youngblood, senior point guard Haynes takes it upon himself to lead the way for his future successor, Mincy.

“We watch films together,” Mincy said. “He tells me what I need to do at point guard and how to run the team.”

Mike Mckee, a 6-foot-4 guard from Pittsburgh, said he also has been influenced by the powerful leadership on the team.

“I struggle on the defensive end a little, so whenever they see that I’m down they’ll give me a slap on the butt and encourage me to keep working hard,” Mckee said. “It feels good when you have your teammates behind you.”

Besides being impressed by the unity on the team, the freshmen also are enjoying Kent’s basketball program as a whole.

“I think I’ve learned more since I’ve been here the last couple months than I have in my whole career,” Parks said.

Smith, who comes to Kent State from Eastfield Community College near Dallas, can’t say enough about the program and how different it is than what he is used to.

“In junior college they just roll the balls out and tell you to shoot hoops,” said Smith, who turned down offers from Texas A&M and Arkansas State. “Here they teach you to slow the game down and read the defense. Like in Texas, it’s a run and gun state; you just try to outscore your opponent. Here you have to defend, and it’s a lot of structure and organization.”

The 2005-2006 recruiting class definitely has high expectations for themselves this season, as well as for their future careers here at Kent.

“I see a big future here at Kent State. I see big things just with our freshmen class,” Sullinger said. “I think we are going to surprise people this year and then when you add on us trying to contribute with what the upperclassmen are already doing. I’m ready for the future.”

Contact sports correspondent Amanda Fulmer at [email protected].