Published March 25, 2013http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml1/DTD/xhtml1-transitional.dtd">
Last weekend's overtime loss to Canisius in the second round of the CIT ended YSU's basketball season a little earlier than expected, but the Penguins still finished with plenty of milestones. (Read about those here.)
The Penguins will lose two of their three best players to graduation but a talented core returns. Here's how I ranked YSU's players from 1-12:
1. Kendrick Perry, Jr., G
Stats/awards/records: (17.3 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 4.1 apg, 1.9 spg). First team all-conference for the second straight season. Finished second in Horizon in scoring, tied for first in steals and was sixth in assists. All-defensive team selection. Needs 12 steals to tie Bruce Alexander (1978-83) for school record in career steals with 182. Already ranks fifth in career assists and should finish in top five in career points.
Skinny: The team's best player and one of the three best players in the conference, along with Detroit guard Ray McCallum and Valparaiso forward Ryan Broekhoff. He does everything well and has elite quickness and jumping ability. Too unselfish at times. Needs to develop more of a killer instinct. Missed four games with knee injury.
2. Damian Eargle, Sr., F
Stats/awards/records: (11.8 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 3.2 bpg). Horizon League defensive player of the year. Led the conference in blocks and was third in rebounds. Holds career blocks record for both YSU and Horizon League despite only playing three years in Youngstown.
Skinny: I gave him a second-team all-conference vote. He improved his mid-range jump shot (even if it will always be as ugly as Jim Furyk's golf swing) and earned what should have been his second straight defensive player of the year trophy. He'll probably never have a right hand (at least offensively) but his graduation will leave a massive hole in YSU's lineup. For all his blocks, it was his ability to defend any position, particularly outside the paint, that set him apart. Missed two games with broken nose.
3. Blake Allen, Sr., G
Stats/records: (12.4 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 3.1 apg). Set YSU's single-season and career 3-point records.
Skinny: Didn't quite have the season I expected — I voted him second team all-conference in the preseason — but played well when Perry injured his knee and was outstanding in the CollegeInsider.com Tournament. Steady player capable of erupting when he gets hot. Not a great defender. Terrific student and leader. As head coach Jerry Slocum said on several occasions, "He's what's right about college basketball." He ended up having the career I thought former Warren Harding standout Sheldon Brogdon would have.
4. Kamren Belin, Jr., F
Stats/awards: (11.1 ppg, 5.4 rpg). Named to Horizon League's all-newcomer team. Also, YSU's best-dressed player.
Skinny: Gets the nod over D.J. Cole because of his size (6-7) and ability to defend bigs. A little inconsistent early in the season but really played well in the second half. Needs to develop offensively, since he's primarily a 3-point threat right now.
5. D.J. Cole, Soph., G
Stats: (6.9 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 3.4 apg).
Skinny: The last few minutes of the season didn't go the way he wanted, but Slocum called him maybe the most consistent player on the team this year. Elite speed and quickness makes up for his size (5-11). Moved into the starting lineup halfway through the season and proved he belonged there. Needs to improve his outside shot and he will.
6. Bobby Hain, Fr., F/C
Stats: (6.2 ppg, 3.4 rpg)
Skinny: Played in all but one game and started four. Possesses tremendous size (6-10) and will develop athletically over next three years. Offensively, he's a natural, with several moves around the basket and a good shooting stroke. Plays with great effort. Already a decent 3-point threat and will only improve. Defensively, he's not awful inside but he can't guard a chair outside the paint. His defense will improve but his feet probably aren't quick enough for him to ever be anything but average in that area.
7. Shawn Amiker, Soph., G/F
Stats: (5.4 ppg, 2.8 rpg)
Skinny: An absolutely mistifying season. Started 19 of 33 games and played well in the first half of the year but really struggled in Horizon League play. Has the size (6-5 with long arms) and athleticism to be very good but needs to get mentally tougher and a lot more consistent.
8. Ryan Weber, Fr., G/F
Stats: (1.9 ppg, 1.0 rpg)
Skinny: Played in 28 games, starting three. Like Hain, he'll benefit from this year's experience. Decent athlete with good basketball mind and skill level. Should be interesting to see how much better he gets this offseason and whether he can make a D.J. Cole-esque jump.
9. Josh Chojnacki, Jr., F
Stats: (0.9 ppg, 0.7 rpg)
Skinny: Played in 26 games, giving YSU a big body (6-9, 240) when Eargle and Hain needed a break or were in foul trouble.
10. Fletcher Larson, Soph., F
Stats: (1.9 ppg, 0.8 rpg)
Skinny: Didn't play much (12 games, down from 28 last year) but gave the Penguins a nice boost with six points and two rebounds in 18 minutes in a home win over Milwaukee.
11. Mike Podolsky, Jr., G
Stats: (0.5 ppg, 1.0 rpg)
Skinny: Played just 70 minutes in 16 games. I've liked his game since he was at Canfield. He would have been an impact player in Division II or III.
12. Danny Reese, Soph., G
Stats: (1.3 ppg, 0.3 rpg)
Skinny: Played just 27 minutes in six games. Like Podolsky, he's a skilled player who would benefit from playing at a lower level.
Also: Ronnye Beamon (redshirted), Larry Johnson Jr. (sophomore walk-on who sat out due to NCAA transfer rules).
1. A few weeks ago, I wrote about how I felt YSU women's coach Bob Boldon was too good for the Penguins to keep. (You can read that here.) After their run to the WNIT second round, I'd be stunned if he's still here next season.
One of the schools I mentioned in the column was Ohio, which was no coincidence. The Bobcats will not renew Semeka Randall's contract and if I were in Athens, Boldon would be No. 1 on my radar.
2. Boldon signed a four-year deal with a school option for the fifth season, but according to his contract, he doesn't owe YSU a penalty if he leaves. (There was a penalty for the first two seasons.)
Considering Green Bay's budget, status in state (second to Wisconsin), tradition and fan following, YSU will probably never be better than second in the Horizon League to the Phoenix, so with Brandi Brown graduating, this is a good opportunity for Boldon to move on.
Add in the fact that his assistant coaches would also get a raise and I just can't see Boldon here next year.
3. I've heard/seen a few people who want Slocum fired, which is absolute lunacy.
Slocum and I weren't exactly buddies a few years ago but it's hard to argue with the program's growth the past two years. In addition to posting back-to-back winning seasons (for the first time since 1985), he's been able to bring in freshmen capable of playing in the Horizon League, instead of just relying on junior college transfers. (Although he's had pretty good success with Jucos lately, too.) He's also been a lot better with the media the past two seasons.
4. Bottom line: Unlike the other Horizon League schools, football is king at YSU.
Add in the Penguins' budget (worst in the league), tradition (worst in the league) and recruiting area (Cleveland State, Akron and Kent are king in northeast Ohio and the Vikings are going to be an absolute force in the Horizon the next few years) and YSU isn't going to do better than Slocum and would almost certainly do worse.
5. A lot of people want to blame Ron Strollo for this, but the blame goes to YSU's board of trustees, which treats the basketball programs as an afterthought.
Strollo has done a nice job with fundraising and facilities but if YSU wants to upgrade its basketball programs (and anyone who was watching Florida Gulf Coast in this weekend's NCAA tournament can tell you what athletics can do for your university), he'll need more money. And YSU just doesn't have it.
Fortunately, the Penguins will probably be able to replace their outdated Beeghly scoreboard. Unfortunately, they may have to replace their women's basketball coach, too.