Coach Danny O’Banion this week confirmed that freshman guard Megan Carter will miss the rest of the season because of a leg injury.
Carter, one of the top recruits in this year’s freshman class, was hurt in the first half at Indiana Purdue at Fort Wayne. She’s been on the bench with the team and should return next year. She’ll still have four years of eligibility remaining.
Carter was the first or second player off the bench in the three games she played. She attacked the basket aggressively and scored nine points against Wright State. At 5-foot-7, she could play either point or shooting guard, and it looked as if she was going to be the primary back-up to sophomore point guard Naddiyah Cross.
At North Farmington (Mich.) High School, Carter was special mention all-state in Michigan’s largest division. That’s roughly equivalent to third-season all-state in Ohio. She averaged more than 18 points a game in her senior year and has a reputation of being able to create her own offense off the dribble. She also was a very good ball handler in high school; the Detroit Free Press said she had only 15 turnovers her whole senior year.
Her loss means some significant adjustments for the Flashes and also points out some key challenges at this point in the season:
POINT GUARD: For the first few games after Carter was injured, freshman walk-on Paige Salisbury moved into the back-up role. O’Banion has said the 5-9 Salisbury could have had a scholarship to a Division I school had she found the right fit. By the time she and Kent State connected, KSU had given all its scholarships for the 2015-16 season. Salisbury has averaged 13 minutes in the six games she’s played. She’s scored just seven points but has made only three turnovers in 80 minutes. She had three steals against Cleveland State.
For the last two games, KSU started without a true point guard. Cross came off the bench early, but redshirt freshman Tyra James brought the ball up and started the offense at the beginning of the game. James is one of Kent’s best athletes but is a natural wing player. She moved to the point when O’Banion shook up the starting line-up after the Flashes lost to Cleveland State. After KSU beat North Dakota State by 21, the coach kept the same starting line-up at Bradley. where Kent lost, 68-60.
A little left out in this is scholarship freshman Taylor Parker, a second-team all-Detroit high school player. Parker is the fastest player on the team but looked a little out of control when she has played. She has made nine turnovers in 32 minutes.
SCORING: The Flashes had counted on Carter to contribute points off the bench. KSU has averaged almost 68 points a game this season — far more than the previous three years. But the Flashes have gotten fewer than 10 points a game from non-starters (counting Cross as a starter). Best of those has been freshman Alexa Golden, who averages 3.6, but 10 of her 29 points came in the opener against Colgate. Golden has started KSU’s last two games and has been a key part of the Flashes’ pressure defense. She’s tied for the team lead and is fourth in the MAC with 2.3 steals per game.
Golden averaged about 16 points a game at Chartiers Valley High School outside Pittsburgh and is said to be a good three-point shooter. But she’s only 3 of 15 on three-pointers so far. Next highest bench scorer is Keziah Lewis, a 5-10 guard who scored 772 points in two years of junior college. But she’s scored only 13 points in 69 minutes so far.
Salisbury scored 854 points at Brunswick High School and is in the top five in school history in just about every category. But she has taken only four shots as a Golden Flash. If other teams don’t see her as a threat, they’ll do the same thing opponents did last year against starter Mikell Chinn — essentially not guard her and clog the lane. Parker averaged 15 a game in high school but hasn’t made a basket yet in Kent. Merissa Barber-Smith, a 6-4 freshman, has played sparingly and scored just four points.
A wild card in this is sophomore McKenna Stephens, who made her first start of the season Saturday after missing the first five games with a knee injury. Stephens, a 6-foot forward, averaged 5.4 points in 15 minutes a game last season. This year she’s scored four points in 49 minutes.
OUTSIDE SHOOTING: The Flashes’ three-point shooting has been nothing short of dreadful. They’ve shot 23.9 percent and made just 3.5 three-pointers a game, both last in the MAC. Carter was a good high school shooter. People like James, Cross, Golden, Lewis and Parker will have to take up the slack, or teams will collapse in a zone defense.
ROSTER BALANCE: One thing Carter’s injury (and now redshirt season) will do is balance Kent State’s classes more. Kent State has no seniors and signed only one incoming freshman — 5-10 guard Ali Poole of Carrollton High School. Now, at least, there will be two people in next fall’s freshman class. Poole and Carter fit the depth chart well, as guards Lurken and Lewis graduate after next season.