By Greg Gulas
Youngstown State men’s basketball Jerry Slocum can’t wait to get back onto the court at Beeghly Center after the Penguins’ best season in his seven years with the program.
Scheduling, well, that’s another story.
Slocum, the guest speaker at the Curbstone Coaches’ weekly luncheon Monday at the Blue Wolf Banquet Center, noted that firming up a schedule has been his biggest challenge to date.
“This year’s schedule was done by April 1, but then it began to unravel and we were scrambling to find opponents,” Slocum said. “We had Ohio State, Pitt and an exempt tourney in Toledo all set and ready to go. Ohio State then had a chance to play on an aircraft carrier, Pitt was out and so was the tournament.”
There were other issues, too.
“With Butler moving to the Atlantic-10, the uncertainty as to the number of teams in the league for next year made it difficult to schedule and commit to other non-league teams for the next several years,” Slocum said.
YSU will play a 31-game slate and will open on the road Nov. 10 at George Washington University, followed by a Nov. 12 game against the University of Georgia.
The first of 13 home games this season is set for Nov. 16 against Saint Francis (Pa.).
The Penguins are scheduled to begin practice Oct. 12. Slocum is set to welcome five newcomers and nine lettermen back from last year’s 16-15 club.
Returning lettermen include guards Blake Allen, D.J. Cole, Kendrick Perry, Shawn Amiker, Danny Reese and Mike Podolsky, and forwards Josh Chojnacki, Damian Eargle and Fletcher Larson.
“This is by far our deepest and best group in my eight years at YSU,” Slocum said. “Whether or not it is good enough to win it all remains to be seen.”
It’s our best freshman class and in my eyes, Kendrick [Perry] is clearly a pre-season all-Horizon League pick who can be the league’s player of the year. With the loss of Butler, the league really is a toss-up with everyone having a chance to win.”
The Penguins are coming off their annual “boot camp,” a program that Slocum established and has overseen during his 35 years as a college coach.
“The team meets at my house and the captains pick the menu,” he said. “We discuss my points of emphasis so they know why we do what we do, why we treat people like we do, why we play who we play and why going to class is mandatory.
“Boot camp is to build closeness; a camaraderie that lasts the entire season.”
Slocum’s players performed well as a group in the classroom last year, posting a 3.0 cumulative grade-point average as a team.
Eight players on this year’s roster have earned a 3.00 grade-point average or better.
The Curbstone Coaches are scheduled to welcome first-year YSU volleyball coach Mark Hardaway as their guest speaker next Monday.