The newcomers: 7 freshmen, 2 junior college transfers

There are seven freshmen on the Flashes’ 2015-16 roster. That’s the most I can ever remember.

At least two or three of them have to play major roles this season in order for KSU to have any kind of success.

One of the freshmen — wing Tyra James of Cincinnati — is a redshirt who blew out her knee just before last season. We talked about her in the last post; she averaged 19 points at Cincinnati Winton Woods High School and was one of Kent State’s top recruits a year ago,. She’s likely to play a lot of minutes this year.

Here’s a look at the other six:

Guard Megan Carter averaged more than 18 points a game in her senior year at Michigan’s North Farmington High School and twice scored 34 points against ranked opponents. She’s a good shooter off the dribble and can make three-pointers. Carter, who is 5-foot-7, was “special mention” all state in Michigan’s largest high school division — roughly equivalent to third-team all state in Ohio. The Detroit Free Press said she had just 15 turnovers all last season — wonderful news for a Kent State team that has had trouble for years holding on to the basketball. Assistant coach Geoff Lanier last year told me that like former men’s guard Derek Jackson. Carter can switch between point and shooting guard. I suspect we’ll be hearing a lot from her this season. (Here’s a link to a nice feature story on Carter from the Free Press.)

Guard Alexa Golden was second-team all state in Pennsylvania’s second-largest high school division. Kent coach Danny O’Banion called her a “prototypical glue player” when she announced this recruiting class. Golden, who is 5-foot-9, was her high school team’s top scorer (16 points a game) and top defensive player. She sounds like a better version of Krista White, who started 15 games last season. White also was a good defensive player in high school and led KSU in scoring several games last year. But White was no all stater. (White left the team after last season; notes on her and others who left the team will be in a future post.) Here’s a link to a feature on Golden’s high school team and another mini-feature on Golden herself.

Guard Taylor Parker was half of a pair of tiny guards who averaged more than 15 points each for Detroit Cass Tech High School last year. Parker is 5-6; her running mate was 5-4. But in their time at Cass Tech, they were runner-up in the Detroit City Championship three times. Parker had more than 60 steals her junior year. She’ll be in the mix at point guard with Carter and sophomore Naddiyah Cross, who started 15 games as a freshman last year.

Post player Merissa Barber-Smith may remind us of Cici Shannon, the 6-4 third-team all MAC center who graduated last year. Barber-Smith is also 6-4; assistant coach Lanier told me last spring that Barber-Smith was stronger physically than Shannon was at the same age. Barber-Smith averaged a double-double in both her junior and senior year and  was listed as one of the top 50 players in Wisconsin after her junior year. She averaged about 13 points a game her senior year but scored 35 in one game. How she develops will say a lot about Kent’s inside game.

Post player Savannah Neace blocked more than 400 shots in her four years at St. Henry High School in northern Kentucky, across the river from Cincinnati. She’s 6-3 and averaged 11.3 points and 8.2 rebounds her senior year. O’Banion compares her to current sophomores Jordan Korinek and Mckenna Stephens as forwards who can score away from the basket. My guess is she’ll play behind those two and Barber-Smith, at least early in the season.

Guard Paige Salisbury is a 5-9 walk-on who led her Brunswick High School team in almost every statistical category. She played in more games than any player in school history and ranked ninth in points, seventh in rebounds, fourth in assists, seventh in steals and third in blocks in team history. Still, she’s a walk-on and has six scholarship guards ahead of her. I suspect she’ll play some and could surprise us.


O’Banion added two junior college transfers and a Division I transfer who won’t be eligible this season. The junior college people, both with two years of eligibility left:

Forward Chelsi Watson has the tallest vertical leap on the team and leads the team in most other weight-room categories. She’s from Tyler Junior College in Tyler, Texas, where her team reached the national junior college finals both her years there. She 5-10 and averaged 8.4 points and 6.2 rebounds a game as a sophomore. I expect she’ll be a role player when Kent needs extra rebounding. She more or less replaces Janae Peterson, a forward from California who played some as a freshman but was sick or hurt almost all of her sophomore year. Peterson left the team after last season.

Guard Keziah Lewis is a New Zealand native who played at Ellsworth Community College in Iowa Falls, Iowa. She’s 5-10 and scored 771 points in two years at Ellsworth. She can score from a lot of places; she made 40 three-point shots in two years (33 percent her freshman year but just 23 percent last season). She averaged more than 100 free throws a year. Statistically she reminds me of Rachel Mendelsohn, who was O’Banion’s first freshman recruit and played two years as a reserve guard. Mendelsohn injured her knee before last season, sat on the bench with the team all year but decided not to come back as a player.

A player we won’t see in a game for a year is forward Zenobia Bess, a transfer from Illinois State. (Six players there  transferred after a 2-28 season.) Bess started 22 games last season but averaged just 3.1 points and 2.9 rebounds. She is 6-foot-1 with a 6-foot-5 wing span and came off a Gahanna Lincoln High School team that sent five players to Division I colleges. NCAA rules say she has to sit out a season after transferring.

Next: Where the transfers went. And later in the week, a report on Thursday’s preseason press day.

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