By Steve Porter
Youngstown State begins Horizon League play tomorrow night with a very tough challenge. They travel to Chicago to take on the UIC Flames. The Flames came out on top of last season’s Horizon League standings.
The Penguins come into League Play with a strong interior but question marks elsewhere.
The team is anchored by junior center Jamal Grady with his 17.7 ppg and 6.3 rpg team leading statistics. When Grady has to go to the bench to rest, he is ably backed up by sophomore Kent Jones who is averaging 5.8 ppg but isn’t a strong rebounder.
At PF, the team has two very strong players, sophomore Tim Tice and senior Rich Braswell. Tice is normally the starter and is averaging 8.9 ppg and 4.8 rpg, but Braswell is having a strong senior year, averagg 7.0 ppg (while hitting 57% of this shots) and 4.2 rpg in his 15.7 mpg on the court.
Chad Delzell is continuing to start at SF but the senior has been shooting poorly this season and is averaging just 3.9 ppg. He continues to be a strong rebounder though (4.6 rpg). He is backed up by senior Rick Martin who is shooting well (hitting 44% of his FG attempts including 47% of this 3’s) and averaging 8.1 ppg. Martin has been doing double duty recently, starting at SG but also backing up Delzell.
The SG position has been a morass. Junior Levall Hart began the season as the starter but while shooting well overall (55%), only hit 14% of his 3’s and has seen his on court minutes decrease precipitously and is averaging just 3.1 ppg. Rick Martin has been starting in recent games but has been inconsistent and thus has not been able to solidify his hold on the position. Redshirt freshman B.J. Dennis, while not yet starting, has been playing more minutes at SG than anyone else recently and has had some good scoring performances. Dennis is now averaging 7.8 ppg. Freshman William Swan and senior Lonnie Holt also have had limited exposure at SG
Confusion extends to the PG position where junior Tim Lostetter and sophomore Linehan Murphy have been sharing starts and minutes. Lostetter is the more aggressive shooter and scorer (8.1 ppg), but Murphy (6.2 ppg) tends to be the passer and has shown a keen shooting eye. Levall Hart could also play some at PG.
When asked about the team, Coach Durst replied, “I had certainly hoped to see the starting positions nailed down by now. But we have a bunch of very good players who compete hard both in games and in practice. There are a number of players who have very good performances on any given day. Those who gain a bit more consistency will ultimately become regular starters for us. It’s nice to have the depth we have this season. I’d like to see a couple of them begin having strong games so that teams will have to spread their defensive intensity around and take some pressure off Jamal.”
Regarding his team’s chances in league play, Durst responded, “I think it’s going to be a tough battle. There are so many teams that have the players to make a run. I think we’ll be in the mix. We’ve shown we have an offense that can compete, now we just have to amp up our defense some. With our inside game pretty much in place, if we can now get our outside game complimenting that, I think we could be a big factor in the Horizon League. To be league champs, though, a team has to play well on the road and carve out some away victories. We had a couple early this season but then lost our last two road games.”
When asked about the team’s recruiting efforts, Durst said, “We’ve got letters of intent from very good high school seniors for 2 of the 4 scholarships that will be available after this season. We’re continuing to actively work to build interest and hope to nail down some players who can step in and fill the big shoes of those who are graduating at the end of this season. There are a couple recruits we are pursuing who need to do well on their SAT’s to qualify to play for us, so January 28 when the SAT scores are announced is a big date for them and us.”
The Penguins take on UIC in Chicago in their Horizon League opener, and in response to what the team would do to win the game, Durst replied, “Tim Patterson is a big time scorer. He’s scored over 20 point in 6 of their 10 games this season. So we need to try to keep him from busting out. UIC had a great team last season and I expect them to be tough to handle this year as well. Going on the road to take them on in our first league contest is a huge challenge. We need to be clicking on all cylinders if we expect to have a chance.”
- Chris likes this