How young are the Flashes, really?

Are the Flashes really a “young team,” as coach Danny O’Banion likes to say? “Burden,” one of the top commenters on the Flash Fanatics bulletin board, points out that in the team’s top nine include three seniors (center Cici Shannon, forward Montia Johnson and point guard Mikell Chinn), a junior (guard-wing Melanie Stubbs) and two sophomores (guard Krista White and wing Larissa Lurken).

What O’Baniion says she means is that the players lack both Division I experience land Kent State experience. No player has more than three semesters of games in O’Banion’s system. Shannon has the most experience — two years at Southern Illinois, a transfer year she sat out at Kent State, last year and this semester. Johnson and Chinn are junior college transfers, starting at Kent State last fall.

Stubbs played as a freshman under Bob Lindsay and as a sophomore under O’Banion. She sat out last year with a knee injury. During her sophomore season, she started 10 of 28 games.

Lurken was the top recruit in O’Banion’s first true freshman class (more on that later) and started every game last year when she wasn’t injured. White wasn’t a big star in high school and started six of 30 games last season.

So here’s what we end up with in terms of Division I experience:

  • Shannon: 39 games, 35 starts,  averaging 26 minutes at Kent State. At Southern Illinois, she appeared in 60 games, starting 25. She had one season of practice at Kent State when she was ineligible because of transfer rules.
  • Johnson: 39 games, 24 starts, averaging 26 minutes. Junior college transfer from Cowley College in Kansas, where she was a J.C. All-American honorable mention.
  • Chinn:  36 games, 20 starts,, averaging 24 minutes.
  • Stubbs: 55 games, 11 starts. She’s averaged 15 minutes a game this year. I don’t have minutes from her first two years, but they’d average out less than that.
  • Lurken: 32 games, 28 starts, averaging about 29 minutes.
  • White: 37 games, 13 starts, averaging 30 minutes this year and 13 last year.

So far this year’s four freshmen have a total of 28 games, 10 starts and are averaging a total of about 19 minutes per game each. And we need to add in sophomore Janae Peterson, who’s been sick and hurt and played only three minutes this year. Last year she played 26 games, started six, averaging 13 minutes.

That leaves us with a team that has (not counting Shannon’s SIU games):

  • 292 games, 131 starts, and about 6,727 game minutes

Let’s compare that to Akron, the defending MAC tournament champion. The Zips are 9-0 but lost three starters, including their leading two scorers, from that season. It’s also a young team in the classic sense — it has only one senior (leading scorer Sina King). Here are the Akron totals:

  • 485 games, 155 starts, 7,296 game minutes.

One last one: Central Michigan, probably the best team in the MAC. Here’s a team with five seniors (though one is a transfer).

  • 556 games, 304 starts, 11,569 game minutes.

So I think we can definitely say that yes, Kent State is a young team, based on game experience.

How did this happen?

There were essentially two lost years when Bob Lindsay was fired. Lindsay’s last good year game in 2010-11, when the Flashes started five seniors and went 20-10. In 2011-12, Lindsay went 6-21. He had brought in five freshmen; only Stubbs is still on the team. The best freshman went back to France when her father got cancer. A freshman started every game at point guard but never clicked with O’Banion and transferred. The other two freshmen had health and injury problems and never worked out.

O’Banion arrived in mid-April, and the recruiting season was long over. Lindsay’s best recruit, Miriam Justinger, asked to be released from her commitment to Kent and went to Bowling Green, where she has started 56 games on two championship teams. A second verbal commitment backed out right before the fall signing period (long before Lindsay was fired) and went to Ohio State. A third never was academically eligible. A fourth came for her freshman year, played as a reserve, got hurt the next fall, and transferred back to a college in Minnesota. There was talk of another who got tired of waiting for a new coach to be named.

In that first month, O’Banion recruited Ashley Evans and Amber Dunlap, two junior college players. They anchored the team for two years, but you know that if a J.C. player is still around in April, she’s not blue chip. That same spring, Shannon transferred in but wasn’t eligible for O’Banion’s first year.

O’Banion did find guard Rachel Mendelsohn, who had gotten out of her commitment to St. Louis when the coach there was fired. Mendelsohn was an all-state point guard in Oregon. She started seven games as a freshman and was the first guard off of the bench last year. This year she blew out her knee in late fall and will miss the year.

In O’Banion’s second year, she brought in Lurken, a high-scoring guard from Minnesota; White, a defensive specialist from Dayton; Emily Leonard, a 6-2 forward from Dayton, and Peterson, a 6-foot center-forward from California. Leonard was a project and left the team after her freshman year. Peterson, who put up big numbers on a weak high school team, was the first post player off the bench last year but has been sick and hurt this year. In short, it was not a particularly strong class.

This year’s freshman class was supposed to be special and may yet be. It lost one member — 6-3 post player Lydia Poe — to homesicknesses before the school year started. Guard-wing Tyra James, who was a big scorer her senior year in high school, was hurt in pre-season and won’t play until next year. Madison Ridout was a big scorer in high school and has shown flashes in 15 minutes a game. Korinek, who was supposed to be the best post player in Ohio Division II, has started six games and Cross has started two.

O’Banion has a five-member freshman class coming in that looks good on paper. Megan Carter, a 5-7 guard from North Farmington High School in Michigan, has just been named one of the top 30 players in the state. Merissa Berber-Smith is a 6-3 center who has been rated one of the top 50 players in Wisconsin. Kent has commitments from another 6-3 post player and two other guards.

The problem with all this:

More youth.

Kent graduates three seniors. It has only one junior. It will be a young team for at least another two years.



  1. goldenflash101

    Nice try but I don’t buy it. Akron with only about 10% more minutes (and missing 3 starters from last year) are much better. Certainly more than 10%. Young teams do have issues but a good young team does not win less than 10 games a year. Guards and wings are pretty much what they are as freshman. Yes they improve with time but Cross will not turn into Zerman, Burden, Smith or even Willoughby next year. Maybe Gibson but not the others. The recruiting has been suspect. All the excuses you cite are pretty typical for women’s basketball. You can never count on them until they show up and are breathing. Also you have seen the shooting guard from BG who originally signed with us. Yes she starts but for her, shooting is just a rumor. She is Lurken without a shot. Solid player but wouldn’t help us very much. The center that left the team went to Minnesota to play volleyball. There’s a clue there. Our transfer from Michigan St. played softball there. Another clue.

    I am not blaming the recruiting all on the new coach. Old Bob really dried up the pipeline. At the MAC tournament I occasionally talk to parents of players of other teams and they say that kents recruiting style lacked enthusiasm.
    I know that’s not necessarily a fact based on a few people but whatever it was you could see it happening. The last few years the JCs kept Lindsay’s teams afloat but it finally fell apart.

    What bothers me the most is that any decent player is almost guaranteed a starting role and yet in the last 2 to 3 years we have not seen any come to Kent. Not even one who made all freshman team or even challanged for it. This is the Akron I saw for close to 20 years.

    Last year it was this years class that was suppose to be good. All I see is a couple of back up players on a poor team and maybe a center(there youth is a much bigger factor so we need to give her some time although Studer, Henschke, Shearer etc didn’t need much). Based on that I can’t get excited about next years recruits until they show up and prove they have talent. There is no track record to believe in. Let’s face it Mendelsohn, Johnson, CiCi, Evans and Dunlap probably have been the best players she has brought in. All at the last minute. Kinda of weird isn’t it?


    • goldenflash101

      I did some analysis of wins vs. years of experience over the last 25 years. I took the starters over that period and added up there years of experience. Freshman 0.5, Sophomore 1.5, Junior 2.5, Senior 3.5. I gave no experience for junior college experience or transfers from other DI schools. Only years at Kent counted. The last three years teams had only 3.5, 4.5 and 5.5 years and obviously won very few games. However I looked at 5 teams with 6.5, 6.5, 7.5, 7.5, and 7.5 years. They won 21, 20, 22, 18 and 19 games. I wish I could attach the graph as it says it all. My point of all this is the talent level is much more important than the experience. Sometimes a freshman can cause you to lose a championship but it is not the difference between winning 7 games and winning 20 games.


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