Men’s basketball season preview: ‘It’s going to be an exciting season’ after first-place league selection

Jacob Shondel, Reporter

After losing three of its top six scores from last season, the Kent State men’s basketball team will rely on every player to step up.

“They can’t look at it like this player is gone, so now I have to do more,” coach Rob Senderoff said. “We have to worry about being a physical, tough and competitive team. There’ll be nights that different guys fill the void that those guys have left.”

The Flashes are without:

  • Forward Justyn Hamilton, who was the 2022 Mid-American Conference 6th man of the year. He led the conference with 43 blocks, and his .638 field goal percentage was sixth in the conference.
  • Guard Andrew Garcia, who ranked third on the team with 8.7 points per game. He started in 24 games.
  • Forward Tervell Beck, who made 29 3-point shots – the third most on the team. He was fifth in points for KSU in with 223 points.

Kent State’s season starts at 7 p.m. Monday at Northern Kentucky, which went 20-12 last year.

League coaches picked Kent State to win the regular season and the tournament title this year.

Last season, the team finished 23-11 overall and second to Toledo in the MAC at 16-4. The Flashes ended the regular season on a 12-game winning streak and lost the MAC championship to Akron 75-55.

There are always going to be “high expectations,” Senderoff said.

“Regardless of where we’re picked, we have to come out with the same energy,” the 2022 MAC coach of the year said. “We have to prepare for each game to play as well as we possibly can. I certainly have a lot of respect for all the teams in our conference and know how hard it is to win the league. It speaks towards our returning guys and that the coaches in the league felt like we had a good team coming back.”

Returning leaders are redshirt senior guards Sincere Carry, last year’s MAC player of the year, and Malique Jacobs, who was named to the all-defensive team.

“They both bring a level of toughness and grit to the team,” Senderoff said. “They were both named to the preseason all-conference team after their play last season, and I’m looking forward to seeing what they can do this season.”

Carry averaged a team-high 17.9 points per game and recorded the fifth-most points in a single season in program history at 609.

Jacobs recorded the first triple-double in KSU history against Ball State and was one of four players in the MAC to record eight double-doubles.

Kent State has a non-conference schedule that will “challenge” and “prepare” the team for its conference opener Jan. 3 against Western Michigan.

“Every situation that you can want to have been in as a team to prepare you for conference play, we will have seen, and that’s what it’s all about,” Senderoff said.

The Flashes play 13 non-conference teams this season – and all but one opponent is Division I. They will face two nationally-ranked teams, No. 3 Houston Nov. 26 and No. 2 Gonzaga Dec. 5.

Two transfers join the roster this season, redshirt senior forward Miryne Thomas from Ball State and senior forward Chris Payton from Pittsburgh.

Thomas started in 30 of the Cardinals’ 33 games last season, averaging a career-high 11.9 points. He made a career-high 55 3-pointers.

Payton played only 41 minutes for the Panthers, totaling 10 points and 10 rebounds.

“He’s an athletic frontcourt player who didn’t get an opportunity to play much there, and I think has a chance to be a good player here,” Senderoff said.

Fans can expect KSU to play with more pace this season on the offensive side of the ball.

“That’s something that our guys have looked at in almost every film session,” Senderoff said, “making sure we’re free-flowing and getting up off the floor fast.”

The Flashes traveled to Australia for a preseason trip Aug. 3. They played multiple games over 10 days.

KSU went 3-0 on the trip and outscored its opponents 298-164. Carry led the team, averaging 21.5 points per game.

“That trip was really beneficial for us,” Senderoff said. “When you play international basketball, they have a 24-second shot clock, so it forces you to play a little bit faster. That helped us get used to playing a little faster, giving everyone opportunities to see what they need to work on.”

Tip off at Northern Kentucky is set for 7 p.m. Monday.

The Flashes’ home opener is at 5 p.m. Thursday against Baldwin Wallace. Last season, the Yellow Jackets were 15-10.

“We haven’t had this many returning guys back in a while,” Senderoff said. “So I hope the fans show up on the 10th, and all of the games moving forward and enjoy watching these guys. It’s going to be an exciting season, and I hope everybody will join us.”

For Senderoff, victory this season starts with the little things.

“It’s, ‘If I didn’t play well, am I getting in the gym extra? If I did play well, am I going to stay humble?’” he said. “It’s making sure my teammates look good on the court because I’m doing everything right for them. If we do those things, then Kent State will have a successful season.”

Jacob Shondel is a reporter. Contact him at [email protected]