Slocum excited about season
The new YSU men's basketball coach doesn't expect to win the Horizon title, but he also won't be in the cellar.
By PETE MOLLICA
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
BOARDMAN -- New Youngstown State men's basketball coach Jerry Slocum didn't sugar-coat his assessment of what his first Penguin team has ahead of it this year.
Slocum was the guest speaker for the opening session of the Curbstone Coaches, which held a special night session at the Lockwood House.
"We've got a long way to go before we'll be at the top of the Horizon League," said Slocum. "But I also don't think we'll be at the bottom either when this season is over.
"I really like our group and we're going to be a lot more competitive than people think we will be," he added.
Slocum, who begins his 31st season as a college head coach, became the 12th men's coach in Youngstown State history on April 12.
He hasn't stopped working since.
"I'm excited about this group, especially their desire to learn," he said. "I don't think I've ever had a group that has been so receptive to changes as this one.
"We're definitely not anywhere near where we need to be, but we also haven't had one kid who hasn't embraced the changes we've been giving them."
Four new recruits
Slocum and his staff have brought in four recruits to date, of whom three are expected to give immediate help. The fourth, Byron Davis, a transfer from New Mexico State, will have to sit out this season to satisfy NCAA rules.
The other three, 6-foot-4 junior college transfer Keston Roberts, 6-8 freshman Jack Liles and 6-2 freshman Mikko Niemi are all expected to add immediate impact to the YSU program.
Niemi is a 20-year-old freshman who comes to the Penguins after two years with the Finland National Team and is expected to share time at point guard with returning senior Derrick Harris.
Davis, who wont be eligible until next year and have two years remaining, was a real find for Slocum.
"He started 35 games over two years at New Mexico State and he is just an outstanding athlete," Slocum said.
Fender leaves program
The Penguins recently lost one of their early recruits from previous coach John Robic, when former Poland High standout Chad Fender decided not to play this season.
"We're going to look very hard before we fill that scholarship," Slocum stated.
When asked just what sort of offense and defense the Penguins will run this year, Slocum hesitated, then said, "I'm really not sure.
"Ideally you would like to push it up the court, but we're still learning just what we can do. We are going to be guard oriented and we'll be trying to get as many shots as we can," he continued.
Thought of losing
Slocum, who has a 30-year coaching record of 580-325 losses with 19 seasons of 20 wins or more, said one of the most difficult things that came to his mind before he accepted the job was the thought of losing.
"After my interview here I went back home and my wife was waiting for me. She asked how things went and I told her I really liked it," Slocum said.
"She then told me that her main concern was just how I would handle losing. I looked at her and said 'We're just not going to lose.' She then said 'Pack the bags and let's go.' "
The Curbstone Coaches will make their annual trek to Mountaineer Park Oct. 10. The bus will leave from the Taco Bell parking lot in Boardman at 4:30 p.m. For more information contact Ed Winson at (330) 782-8330.