Asiah Dingle scored 785 points in her first two years, tied for fifth all-time for Kent State. (Photo by John Conley from KentWired.)
This post is more analysis than Thursday’s story about Asiah Dingle’s decision to transfer from Kent State women’s basketball team, which was a pretty straight report on the situation.
Asiah Dingle made a huge difference in her two years in a KSU uniform. She was the spark of coach Todd Starkey’s outstanding 2018 recruiting class. In her first year, she gave the Flashes a scoring threat at point guard we haven’t seen since Dawn Zerman, MAC player of the year in 2000.
I can’t imagine Kent State winning 20 games last season and 19 this year without her.
Her ability to drive the basketball changed Kent State’s offense. When the Flashes rallied in the second half to win their first-ever WNIT game last season, Green Bay had no answer. Her quick hands on defense could turn a game. At Akron this season, she had a steal and basket, then stole the inbounds pass and scored again in a sequence that changed the course of the game.
This season she came off the bench for her last 11 games and played the best basketball of her career. She made 54% of her shots in that time; in her freshman year, she made 37%. Her play was critical to Kent State’s late run that gave them a tie for the MAC East title and the third seed in the conference tournament.
Dingle announced Sunday that she would attend Stony Brook University on Long Island, which went 28-3 last season and won the American East Conference.
Only a technicality kept her from being the MAC’s sixth player of the year. To qualify, a player needs to start fewer than half of her team’s games. Dingle started 15 of the 28 games she played in. The winner of the award, Central Michigan’s Gabrielle Bird, averaged 8.6 points a game. Dingle averaged 13.3.
She averaged 12.8 points her freshman season. That was more than the freshman average of all but four of Kent State’s 1,000-point scorers, including Larissa Lurken, Jordan Korinek, Lindsay Shearer, Julie Studer and Dawn Zerman. Her 785 points tied Zerman for fifth in points scored in two years.
Dingle had her flaws. Her sometimes out-of-control play (“reckless turnovers,” Starkey said after one victory) could drive coaches and fans crazy. Fouls could keep her off the court for significant periods. According to analytics site HerHoopStats, she ranked 3,311 of 3,321 Division I players in fouls per game. She had very limited shooting range; She took only 20 three-point shots all season and made only two.
Starkey pushed Dingle hard to overcome those problems. I never saw a sign she resented that, but I’m not in the locker room, either.
Did she leave because she was unhappy at Kent State? The tweet announcing her transfer called her time her “an amazing two years,” and she thanked her coaches and teammates. That’s pretty standard stuff for transfer announcements.
I’m sure Dingle wasn’t happy when she was suspended for two games in early February. Starkey never said why; I heard much later that she missed a required team activity.
She never started after that. But the team was better for it. Before that time, the Flashes had gotten minimal points from their bench. Dingle gave them energy and production, and the team won eight of 11 games.
The way she played in that run was far from that of an unhappy player. Her attitude in postgame interviews was the same it had always been. She was never a particularly articulate interview, but she was fun to be around.
In an interview with Allen Moff of the Record-Courier, Starkey said Dingle was “trying to get closer to home, where she has family going through some significant health situations (not related to the coronavirus). I think that played a pretty big part in her decision.”
A source in Boston (Dingle’s hometown) said the same thing hours before I read Starkey’s statement. She does indeed have a close family member with major health problems, and Boston is 600 miles away, way too far away to easily go home for a quick visit.
I have no way of knowing how much her suspension or not starting had to do with her decision.
But my best guess is that the decision was at least as much family related as it was basketball related, and maybe a lot more.
Life without Dingle
The Flashes certainly will miss her. No team can lose a leading scorer with a unique style like Dingle’s without having to make adjustments.
The dynamics will be different. She was part of a cluster of players — her, senior guard Megan Carter, freshman wing Katie Shumate — who were very good at creating their own shots. And that’s a big reason why the Flashes were 295th in the country in assists.
More and better passing, I think, will help the team.
Mariah Modkins took over as starting point guard when Dingle moved to the bench. She is a calmer player, a better distributor and a better 3-point shooter. But most of the time, the Flashes were a better team with Dingle on the floor. Modkins averaged about 3.5 points in about 16 minutes per game. I’m glad Modkins is on the team, but I’m not sure she’s a full-time championship guard in Division I.
I think incoming freshman guard Casey Santoro will be very good, but you never know with freshmen. Sophomore Hannah Young scored 1,998 points in high school, but it took her almost a season and a half to find herself at Kent State.
Santoro, a four-time all-Ohio choice, averaged 25.2 points a game her senior year and scored more than 2,100 points in her career. Her high school statistics are quite similar to those of Miami’s Peyton Scott and Central Michigan’s Molly Davis. Both guards made the MAC all-freshman team this season.
Next year’s Kent State team is likely be more post-oriented than this year’s. Linsey Marchese, the team’s 6-4 transfer from Indiana, will be eligible. I’ve seen her in practice a number of times. She has the potential to quickly become one of the best centers in school history.
Dingle is the first front-line player to transfer in Starkey’s four years. Five players left over the last two years, but none were in line to play a major role on the team.
Her transfer is the most significant in the 30-odd years I’ve been following Kent State women’s basketball. The only other major loss I can remember is a guard named Jena Stutzman, who was one of the best 3-point shooters in school history. Unhappy with coach Bob Lindsay’s ultra-demanding style, she transferred to Ashland. There she led her team in scoring as it finished runner-up in the Division II NCAA Tournament in 2012.
In 2004, Andrea Csaszar, at 6-6 center the tallest player in Kent State history, chose to forgo a redshirt senior season to play professional basketball in Europe. It’s not quite the same as a transfer, but it was a big loss. Csaszar still holds the Kent State record for blocked shots in a game and a season and is second in career blocks..