All posts by Bob McDonald

Cleveland State Transfer Troubles and Help Up Front

Amid conflicting reports from multiple news outlets in both Cleveland and Michigan, it appears that Cleveland State guard Bryn Forbes may be seeking life elsewhere in the form of Michigan State. As a Lansing native and with family close by, the move presumably would make sense to the 2012-13 Horizon League Newcomer of the year.

While according to the Plain Dealer and the Detroit Free Press, nothing has been finalized (Though the Cleveland Leader and WTAM’s Nick Camino disagree), all signs would appear to point to Forbes hitting the road out of Cleveland. History, as it turns out, is not on the side of the Vikings.

Over the course of the past three years, at least one player has transferred out of Cleveland State for a better situation in their mind.

Last year, it was Junior Lomomba. The much-touted recruit from Madison, Wisconsin by way of Montreal was started off slow due to a foot injury. Ironically, his playing time during his freshman year wasn’t high due to the emergence of Forbes. As a result, Lomomba decided to leave, and will play for Providence next season..

The year before, guard Ike Nwamu said good-bye to the Vikings, making Mercer University his school of choice. This past season, the Bears beat last season’s NCAA Tournament Cinderella team , Florida Gulf Coast, to take the Atlantic Sun conference crown and make their own way to the NCAAs.

At the end of the 2010-11 season found Cleveland State staring down the barrel of a mass exodus, as
Charlie Woods and Josh McCoy departed to play at Division II Missouri-St. Louis. On top of that, guard Anthony Wells also went the Division II route, taking off to play for Indiana University of Pennsylvania, and back-up center Joe Latas went to Houston Baptist, though he had already graduated. Despite this, and the loss of Norris Cole to graduation and the NBA, the Vikings still managed to share the regular-season Horizon League title.

None of this even counts the 2009-2010 season, when all three Viking junior college transfers, Lance James, Jared Cunningham and Kevin Anderson, disappeared off the planet. Though, to be fair, 2010-11, which featured Cole as the superstar, made everyone pretty much forget those three.

Understandably, this trend shouldn’t sit well with anyone, from fans to the Cleveland State coaching staff. But it keeps on happening, and Forbes isn’t even the only one from this year. Ismaila Dauda, center from Polk Junior College, is also gone, transferring to North Florida.

The Vikings still seem to overcome this ongoing issue, posting 20-win seasons four out of the last six seasons. However, in this particular instance, this potentially represents a 1-2 punch to depth at the guard position that Cleveland State didn’t need to take.

As Forbes contemplates leaving, another stalwart of the Viking rotation looks to be gone as well. Sebastian Douglas, who has undoubtedly been one of the team’s best players off the best, not to mention a defensive force, has suffered from multiple issues in both knees. The situation has apparently gotten to the point where Douglas will need to call it a career.

The loss of Douglas was already a blow to the Cleveland State backcourt. Forbes leaving would blow a hole in the rotation, especially given that he averaged 15.6 points a game.

Even in this possible latest round of departures, Vikings head coach Gary Waters may very well move past this once again. First of all, he still keeps his primary two starting guards, senior Charlie Lee and junior Trey Lewis. He also has Creighton transfer Andre Yates, as well as freshmen Terrell Hales Kenny Carpenter.

At some point in time, though, Waters will have to figure out how to keep all of his players around for their entire careers.

While the backcourt depth gets thinner or, at the very least, more inexperienced, the Vikings may very well have gotten a shot in the arm with the signing of 6-8 forward Vinny Zollo and the return of 6-9 Aaron Scales, who spent the 2013-14 season as a redshirt.

Zollo comes to Cleveland after a long and winding journey back to Division I basketball. The Winchester, Kentucky native started his career with Western Kentucky, where he started 14 of 35 games and helped the Hilltoppers to an NCAA Tournament appearance.

After the 2011-12 season, Zollo went the juco route, spending last season at Northwest Florida State, averaging 3.3 points and 2.9 rebounds a game in a crowded frontcourt.

Having Zollo and Scales in the rotation present an opportunity for Waters to keep forward Anton Grady from spending the entire season in the middle. While Grady has been used in that capacity, it’s clear that getting banged around by bigger centers will eventually take its toll. And as everyone saw in 2012-13, when Grady was out with a knee injury, he is the one player the Vikings can’t afford to lose again.

The expectations for both Zollo and Scales are pretty reasonable at this point. Even if the two average 10 minutes a game, it will an entire half in which Grady can play a more natural position at power forward. That was clearly the original goal when Scales was redshirt in favor of seniors Devon Long and Luda Ndaye. But Ndaye was hurt until the very end of the season, and it became clear that Grady and fellow forward Jon Harris proved to a more effective duo up front.

Another potential effect of the signing of Zollo, plus the potential departure of Forbes, is a shift at the 3. Traditionally, in the guard-heavy Horizon League, Waters has made it a habit of putting three guards out on the floor.

However, with Forbes possibly gone and Zollo having previously started in Division I, Waters now has the option of shifting Marlin Mason to the small forward position which, like Grady at power forward, would be a more natural position. This could also give Mason some additional scoring chances, which, as a 4, he appeared hesitant to take advantage of in spite of the ability to put the ball in the basket from multiple spots on the court.