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The Town Crier

Started By PointGuard, Nov 08, 2017 01:43 AM

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#1

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Youngstown…you’ve heard of it, right? But I doubt you know where it’s located. Well, maybe you’ve heard it’s in Ohio, but walk a couple miles east from Youngstown and you’d be in Pennsylvania.

Population: 66,000 and change. But the town’s dying. In 1930 there were 170,000 souls here. It’s been a steady decline ever since…a downward spiral for nearly 90 years. You’ve heard about the Rust Belt. Well, Youngstown has one of the bigger layers of rust. Yeah, we’re the county seat, but so what! The whole county is wasting away.

I grew up in Youngstown and still live here. In fact, I’ve hardly even gotten out of the county. My dad never made much money, and as the manufacturing jobs disappeared, so did a series of low-level jobs for him. After finishing high school, I was able to go to Eastern Gateway Community College since it didn’t cost all that much and I could live at home. But there was no way I could afford to follow that up at a 4-year college. 

But you read this because you were interested in basketball. And what’s all this got to do with round-ball?

I wish I could say it was to tell you about my stellar basketball career. But hell, I’m only 5’7” tall. I thought I was a good player, though. So I turned out to make the high school team. The coach quickly dispelled me of my lofty opinion of my own talent and any dreams I might have had. So rather than play sports, I inhaled them vicariously….watching and reading about all kinds of sports and playing pretty much any video sports game I could get my hands on.

So is this about how I learned so much about the intricacies of basketball that I became a great basketball coach? Sorry, no way. I’m not that talented nor am I a masochist. Besides, my temper would result in me leading the nation in technical fouls, ejections, and enough fines to eclipse my salary.

While attending Eastern Gateway CC, I wasn’t even much of a student. I attended when I had to and did enough to get by with lots of C’s. But I did enjoy my journalism courses, and one of the journalism instructors encouraged me and made sure I wrote for the college newspaper. When she realized that I wasn’t going to be able to take any college courses beyond my 2 years at Eastern Gateway, she pulled a few strings with an editor at The Youngstown Vindicator to land me a job as a sports reporter for that daily newspaper (such as it is—like all newspapers readership and circulation are dying).

I guess the next logical question is...who am I? I’m Steve Porter. I’ve now been a sports reporter for 6 years and am still on the staff of The Vindicator. Not going to get rich, but I like what I do. I cover any and all local sports, but my favorite is basketball.



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#2

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My previous introductory remarks bring us to the only basketball worth mentioning in Youngstown. And that would be the Youngstown State Penguins. Lately, though, they have not only been last alphabetically in the Horizon League but also last in the standings. Finally at the end of the 2015-2016 season, the AD got the cojones to fire Coach Jerry Francis who I’m sure remained coach there for so long because he never asked for (or was given) a raise. Plus maybe he knew where some of skeletons were buried. The guy was a decent recruiter but his player development and game coaching skills didn’t fill a thimble.

Athletic Director Vic Morrissey has been taking his sweet time to hire a new coach. All sorts of rumors though. Based on some inside information, the final choice comes down to either Latrelle Brothers, K.D. Durst, or Everett Ashworth. Brothers has the most experience including being head coach at South Carolina Upstate before becoming the 1st assistant coach to Frankie Segretti, the legendary coach at Temple. One wonders why Brothers would consider the moribund program at Youngstown State, but maybe he’s itching to take on head coaching reins again. Durst is a guy who was a high school coach before becoming the head coach at Division 2 Gannon University in Pennsylvania where he’s compiled a decent, albeit not overly impressive, record. Ashworth is young. He was a star player for Marshall and has risen quickly through assistant coaching jobs for different Division I teams. Last season he was 1st assistant coach at Nevada, a team that impressively made it to the Sweet 16 in the NCAA Tourney.



#3

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Well, AD Morrissey dithered long enough that Everett Ashworth has been hired as head coach for Bucknell University. That narrows the choice for head coach to either Latrelle Brothers or K.D. Durst. Both have visited Youngstown State and gone through interviews. I’m thinking that either would be an improvement over the Jerry Francis who let the Youngstown State program spiral down into obscurity.



#4

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Youngstown State Hires Basketball Coach

By Steve Porter

Youngstown State held a press conference today announcing the hiring of Kendrick (K.D.) Durst as their new head basketball coach.

Athletic Director Vic Morrissey said, “Following an in-depth search, we’re proud to announce that K.D. Durst has accepted our offer as head coach. K.D. impressed us on his commitment to academics to go along with his plans to re-invigorate the basketball program here.”

After graduating from Rice University, where he starred on their basketball team, Durst returned to his native Pennsylvania where he was head coach at 3 different high schools, taking each to the state tournament. He then became head coach at Gannon University in Erie, Pennsylvania. During his 5 years as head coach, Gannon compiled an 81-68 record. 

Durst, aged 37, takes on a program at Youngstown University, that has finished at or near the bottom of the Horizon League standings the past 4 years and never won more games than they lost in any of the previous coach’s 11-year career.

Durst expressed his excitement about the head coaching job and stated, “I’m intent on building the program so that the Penguins soon will be contending for leadership in the Horizon League. I think we have some sound players and will be working hard to coalesce them into a hard-working and effective team.”

When asked about assistant coaches, Durst said he will be hiring an entirely new staff and plans to get than accomplished as quickly as possible.



#5

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Well there you have it. I was hoping that Latrelle Brothers would have become the Penguins new coach. Brothers has better experience and been part of stronger programs. But he’s decided to remain as an assistant coach at Temple. Apparently he was not impressed sufficiently to pursue the Youngstown State position.

Durst was unable to create a strong Division 2 program at Gannon. He is divorced but has 2 children whose primary custodianship is with Durst’s ex-wife. I’ve heard that academics are important to him but that he is not a strict disciplinarian. His temper has gotten him into trouble on occasion.

Although not officially announced, I’ve heard that he has a 3-year contract with an $80,000 annual salary.



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Coach Durst Announces New Staff

By Steve Porter

Coach K.D. Durst made good on his commitment to quickly putting together his coaching staff. He announced the hiring of Raymond Harrington (50) as 1st assistant, Steve Simmons (40) as 2nd assistant, and Miguel Ward (37) as 3rd assistant.

Harrington will handle practices and player development. Simmons will be the recruiting coach. Ward will be the team’s scout and also oversee player academics.



#7

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It took me a while but I was finally able to get Steve Simmons, Youngstown State’s 2nd assistant basketball coach, to meet me for a couple beers. Simmons will be handling recruiting chores for the Penguins. Simmons confirmed that they will be trying to fill 4 scholarships that will be vacated after the 2016-2017 season ends. Although he was pretty indefinite as to what head coach Durst expected and was focusing upon, it seems that they most likely will be trying to sign a couple guards and a couple big men. 

Simmons said their primary emphasis would be to go after recruits within the state of Ohio since the program isn’t well-known outside the state and even less so outside the Midwest region. 

Even though Youngstown State’s academics requirements are quite low compared to most other Division I programs, Simmons expressed a desire to go after recruits with strong academics since both he and Coach Durst place a high value on academics for their players. It seems that Coach Durst is very concerned about the low academic records of nearly half of the present squad. The Penguins’ new head coach has told 3rd assistant Miguel Ward to get those players tutors as soon as the summer is over and players return to school. Although Simmons was unwilling to discuss academic deficiencies of individual players, it sounds like there was little emphasis on academics by the past coaching staff and that none of the present squad are stellar scholars.

Simmons said that the new coaching staff is just beginning to review game films from last season. That will allow them to better assess the talent levels of their players and determine where to focus training and practice.



#8

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I caught up with Penguin’s Josh Jones, who in his junior year will likely be Youngstown State’s starting SG this coming season. Josh had just completed a short training camp at C2P Basketball Camp in Indiana. 

I found out that two of the three incoming Penguins’ freshmen players (PG Tim Lostetter and SF William Worley) attended the same camp. Based on his experience at the training camp, Josh was excited to have both joining the team this coming season. “I gave Tim the nickname “Sparky” because he’s like a spark plug…small (5’6”) and energizing. Tim plays all out and feeds the ball well to others, so I think he’s going to be a big asset at the point for our team. I call William Worley “Bilbo”. For a small forward, he’s going to be a strong rebounder. He’s not afraid to put up 3’s, and if he starts knocking them down better, he can come off the bench to put some quick points on the board for us.” 

Josh indicated he was sorry that Jamal Grady, who is expected to contend for a starting position at center this coming season, wasn’t able to attend the training camp. Jones commented, “I saw Jamal play a couple games in the state tournament this year, and he’s talented in every phase of the game. I can’t wait to get on the court with him.”

Jones has been invited back to the C2P Camp as a player instructor and is excited that he’ll be working with high school players who will be attending camps throughout the rest of this summer.

Asked about new head coach K.D. Durst, Jones said that Durst got to campus after the end of the school year but has made contact with everyone on the team and seemed intent on making some changes to get the team on the winning track. Jones indicated that with the entire coaching staff being new, he’s expecting there will be substantial changes to offensive and defensive strategies and overall philosophies.



#9

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Three Recruits Heading to Penguins
By Steve Porter

The Youngstown State Athletic Department announced today that three high school players have given verbal commitments to play basketball for Youngstown State next season.

Kent Jones, a 6-7 senior center from Mitchell, Indiana, B.J. Dennis, a 6-0 senior starting guard from Pickerington, Ohio, and Aaron Tice, a 6-6 senior power forward from Ashland, Ohio plan to join the Penguins next year.

Coach K. D. Durst said that Jones is a strong rebounder with good inside scoring abilities as well as being a top-flight shot blocker. Durst indicated that Dennis scores well from the outside. Tice was rated in the top 5 of all attendees at the Chicago Prep Review held in July and is a talented rebounder and defender along with being a good scorer.

The Penguins still have one scholarship to award. Durst and Steve Simmons, his recruiting assistant, plan to continue to their recruiting activities, but don’t expect to fill the final scholarship position until this coming spring.



#10

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Inside sources indicate that Youngstown State’s basketball practices have been marred by repeated incidents centering around expected starting point guard, Ryan Surpin. While the incidents haven’t been of such a nature to result in a suspension, Coach Durst has counselled Surpin more than once.



#11

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Coach Durst Redshirts Two
By Steve Porter

As pre-season practices are winding down for the Youngstown State basketball team, Coach K.D. Durst has redshirted freshman SF William Worley and sophomore PG Levall Hart. Redshirting will allow both players to gain an additional year of eligibility while working to build their skills this season. Durst is holding off announcing his starting lineup until just before the Penguins begin their season on November 14 when they host East Tennessee State.



#12

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Penguins Basketball Tips Off Tomorrow
By Steve Porter

A new era of basketball at Youngstown State begins tomorrow night as the Penguins play their first game under the direction of new head coach, K. D. Durst. The Penguins first opponents are the East Tennessee State Buccaneers.

Coach Durst’s starting lineup for tomorrow night’s game will be as follows:

PG Ryan Surpin (6-2 Sr)
SG Josh Jones (6-0 Jr)
SF Chad Delzell (6-8 So)
PF Kareem Toole (6-6 Sr)
C Steven Puzey (6-10 Sr)

Durst indicated that there was stiff competition for all five starting slots. According to Durst, PG Tim Lostetter, SG Jermaine Harrington, SF Rick Martin, PF Rich Braswell, and C Jamal Grady will all get substantial playing time and all of them could possibly break into the starting lineup at some point during the season. SG Lonnie Holt and walk-ons PF Greg Knight and C Kevin Anderson round out the Penguins’ squad.


#13

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Inside information indicates that Coach Durst feels that at the beginning of the season his interior players are stronger than his perimeter players and that his big man depth is stronger than that outside.



#14

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Youngstown State Drops Opener

By Steve Porter

Isaac Stowers and Steven Puzey, the starting centers for East Tennessee State and Youngstown State each scored the first 6 points for their respective teams. Jamal Grady subbed in for Puzey and scored the Penguins next 4 points. At the 13:13 mark, Tim Lostetter hit a pair of free throws to score the first points by a non-center for the Penguins. The Buccaneers relied on Stowers to build a 26-22 lead with 7 minutes to play in the first half. Cheered on by a sparse crowd in Beeghly Center, the Penguins fought back to achieve a slim 34-32 halftime advantage. Stowers led all scorers in the first half with 13 points for the Buccaneers while SF Chad Delzell was high point man for the Pioneers with 10.

East Tennessee State opened up a 7 point lead midway through the 2nd half as Stowers continued to pour in points and the refs called 7 fouls against the Penguins while calling none against the Buccaneers. But even though Stowers finished with a total of 29 points, it ultimately was a combination of a porous defense (allowing East Tennessee State to hit 59% of their shots), turnovers (24 by the Penguins), and failure to control the boards (-9) that led to the Penguins to lose their season opener by a final score of 76-64.

Three Youngstown State players scored in double figures: SG Jermaine Harrington had 11, and SF Chad Delzell and PG Ryan Surpin each scored 10.

Responding to questions after the game, Coach K. D. Durst said, “I was pleased with how hard our guys fought throughout the entire game, but we definitely found some things we need to work on in practice this week. In particular there were far too many errant passes. We’ve got to control the ball better.” Asked about Stowers, Durst replied, “You gotta hand it to the guy. We double-teamed him all night and he still found ways to penetrate. We just couldn’t handle him.”



#15

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I checked in with Raymond Harrington, 1st assistant coach, since I had heard that a couple players on the team may have sustained injuries in last night’s game. Harrington said, “No real injuries. Josh Jones and Rich Braswell had muscle tweaks so today both just did some limbering exercises and we had them skip team practice, but both will be back to normal practicing tomorrow.” According to Harrington, practices up to this point have been pretty intense, but today’s was toned down and focused on a few key points. Even though the two players didn’t participate they were on hand to listen and observe. He said that holding them out of practice today was purely precautionary and both will be at 100% for the Penguins game later this week.



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Penguins Speared by Lancers
By Steve Porter

Youngstown State travelled to Farmville, Virginia to take on the Longwood Lancers. The Lancers won their season opener 87-74 on the road against Cal-Poly.

 

The Penguins had a tough time hitting their shots until late in the first half. At the break they trailed 37-28. 

Youngstown State’s defense fell apart in the 2nd half and the Lancers took advantage of that to open as much as a 24 point lead. The Penguins were handed their second loss, dropping this game by a score of 89-68. 

All five starters for Longwood scored in double figures. C Steven Puzey scored 20 and grabbed 11 boards for the Penguins. SG Josh Jones scored 12 and PG Ryan Surpin added 10 for Youngstown State.






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