There are 15 players on Kent State’s roster this season. By conference season, coach Todd Starkey says, he’d like to be at a eight- or nine-player rotation — normal, he said, for college basketball.
I can see some big battles for those spots.
Forward Jordan Korinek and guard Larissa Lurken – KSU’s leading scorers last semester – will be key pieces.
After that, things may be very open.
Starkey ran down his line-up in an interview last week and give some preliminary impressions. He emphasized that he had only worked with them on the court for two hours a week since he was named head coach in April (that’s all the NCAA allows), and that he’ll know a lot more once full practice starts next week.
Lurken and K0rinek averaged about 30 minutes a game last season. Then came wing Tyra James at 26, forward McKenna Stephens at 24, point guard Naddiyah Cross at 22, guard Alexa Golden at 21, point guard Paige Salisbury at 18 and forward Chelsi Watson at 17.
Add to that:
Redshirt freshman guard Megan Carter, a highly regarded recruit who missed almost all of the season with an injury.
Guard Ali Poole, the only true freshman on the team, whom Starkey called a very promising outside shooter.
6-4 sophomore center Merissa Barber-Smith, a player Starkey said had make the most improvement in the time he’s worked with the group.
6-1 junior transfer Zenobia Bess, who started 22 games as sophomore at Illinois State.
The final three on the roster are senior guard Keziah Lewis, who played about nine minutes a game and averaged 2 points, sophomore point guard Taylor Parker, who played 70 minutes total, and senior center Lacy Miller, a former walk-on who got in just three games.
Here’s a rundown, with some impressions from Starkey:
It starts with Korinek, of course. She was Kent’s leading scorer and rebounder last season and has 662 points in two season. That’s almost exactly the same pace as 2006 grad Lindsay Shearer, one of the best players in Kent State history. And Shearer played on much better teams with a much better supporting cast. In a previous post, we talked about how Starkey said he plans to use Korinek in multiple roles — in the post, at mid-range, from the three-point line. Not planting her in the foul lane, the coach also said, could help keep her out of foul trouble. Last season she fouled out of five games and had four fouls in 13 others. Many were offensive fouls.
Starting opposite her last season was Stephens, the one-time Michigan State softball player who transferred to Kent State during the middle of her freshman year. Stephens averaged 6.4 points a game and showed a good mid-range jumper. She scored 19 points in Kent’s MAC tournament loss to Eastern Michigan. “She can shoot off the dribble and can shoot the three,” Starkey said. “She needs to keep working on defending and rebounding.”
First post player off the bench last season was Watson, a 5-10 junior college transfer. Starkey called her the best athlete on the team. “She can be a really good offensive player,” the coach said. “She can finish left-handed and right-handed and is fantastic in transition.” Watson has to best vertical leap on the team but still is an undersized post player. “We need to learn what her comfort level is” away from the basket, Starkey said.
Sophomore Barber-Smith is the tallest player on the team at 6-4. Starkey said that in pre-season practice, she’s been “consistently our best rebounder and post defender.” “She’s probably made the most progress of anyone on the team,” he said. “She’s aggressive and likes contact, and she has length and the ability to affect shots around the basket.” Barber-Smith played only 69 minutes last season and had 17 points, but she was second on the team in blocked shots with six.
Former coach Danny O’Banion would sometimes call Bess, the 6-1 transfer who played high school basketball for Gahanna Lincoln, “the best player on the court in practice.” Though a starter her sophomore year at Illinois State, she averaged only 3 points and 3 rebounds a game. “She’s savvy and skilled around the basket,” Starkey said. “She’s the best screener on the team,” and Starkey repeatedly said in the interview that screening was a key to Kent State’s offense this season.
Miller, the 6-1 former walk-on, was a key practice player for the Flashes last season. Like O’Banion, Starkey said she and Salisbury, also a walk-on, were the kind of people who made valuable members of the team.
Here’s a link to last season’s final statistics.
NEXT: A LOOK AT THE GUARDS.