Players who will make a difference: Korinek, Stephens and Golden

Lex and ring

Junior guard Alexa Golden and the team’s MAC East championship ring from the 2017-17 season. Photo from the Kent State Twitter feed, taken at a September football game.)

Jordan Korinek, McKenna Stephens and Alexa Golden have started just about every game they’ve been healthy enough to play for Kent State’s women’s basketball team.

Merissa Barber-Smith, Monique Smith and Megan Carter have never started.

Tyra James started about half the games in the one healthy year she’s had in the three she’s spent on campus.

They are the seven players I think will make or break the Flashes’ 2017-18 season as they defend their MAC East title.

Today and tomorrow I’ll talk about why.

JORDAN KORINEK, 6-2 senior forward

It’s hard to imagine Kent State having a good year without Korinek having an excellent one. Fortunately, she’s about as good a bet as fans could ask for.

Korinek goes into her senior season as the 21st player in school history to score 1,000 points. She was a second-team all-MAC player last season and a preseason all-MAC East selection this year. She is a returning academic All-American with a 4.0 average.

Coach Todd Starkey’s strategy to make her even better? 

Get her mad.

“She can be such a kind-hearted person,” Starkey said at the women’s press day. “”When she plays with a little bit of a chip on her shoulder, she plays her best.

Korinek’s best is very good indeed. It took her most of the non-conference season last year to figure out her place in Starkey’s system. But during MAC play, she averaged 18.2 points per game — eighth in the conference.

McKENNA STEPHENS, 6-0 senior forward

For a while, it looked as if Stephens wouldn’t return for her redshirt senior season. But she’s back as a graduate student in criminology.

Stephens had her sixth surgery in March after injuring her hip in the first minutes of the Flashes’ WNIT game at Michigan (she still played 37 minutes and scored 11 points).

“The injuries were getting to me,” she said, “and I was wondering whether I was ready to move forward. And I decided I wasn’t ready to close the chapter and needed to come back.”

Stephens was Kent’s third-leading scorer the last two seasons and had the highest three-point field goal percentage (44 parent on 20 for 45 shooting) in the MAC during conference play.

“She brings back serious experience,” Korinek said. “And the ability to score. And she’s a great friend.”

ALEXA GOLDEN, 5-9 junior guard

Since she arrived on campus, Golden has been one of Kent State’s best defensive players.

That isn’t enough for Starkey this season

With the loss MAC leading scorer Larissa Lurken to graduation, “Players like Alexa are going to have to play some different roles this season,” Starkey said,. “She always was a really good voice defensively. And then late in the second half of the season, she was one of our highest percentage three-point shooters, really knocking down big shots for us.

“And her confidence grew so now Alexa’s taken some more leadership on her shoulders. She’s getting more aggressive offensively, and we’re asking her to do more.”

 

Tomorrow: Merissa Barber-Smith, Monique Smith, Tyra James

Notes

Some other items to we need to catch up on.

BONNIE BEACHY, the only Kent State women’s basketball player ever to have her jersey number retired, died on Oct. 13 after a 12-year battle with ovarian cancer. Beachy graduated in 1982 and is the school’s all-time leading scorer of either gender with 2,071 points. Her single-season scoring record stood until last season, when Larissa Lurken broke it in her second to last game (an event Beachy marked with a Retweet of KSU announcement). What makes her scoring records even more amazing is that she did it before the three–point shot.

Beachy was a 5-8 forward in the early days of women’s varsity basketball and later coached, taught and was an administrator at Houston-area schools She was a loyal KSU alum; she was a guest coach at at least three home games (Kent won all of them), once drove to New Orleans to meet with the team at an away game and was the featured speaker at the Starner Distinguished Speaker Series in 2013. Here’s a detailed obituary.

***

The Flashes have added Farrah Young as a graduate assistant.

Young was a two-sport athlete at Lenoir-Rhyne University in Hickory, North, Carolina. She played for KSU head coach Todd Starke  during his last season at Lenoir-Rhyne before he went to Indiana as an assistant. During her sophomore and junior years, she was coached by Alison Seberger, current KSU director of basketball operations. Young was on record-setting relay teams on Lenoir-Ryne track team and a point guard the basketball team. At 5-3, she’s the only person in the Kent State locker room shorter than current point guard Naddiyah Cross, who is listed at 5-5.

 

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