Tag Archives: Bobby Word

Hard Lessons in Learning How to Win for Cleveland State

Cleveland State might be forgiven for feeling its way through the non-conference schedule, given the new coaching staff and the need to have the new players and upperclassmen start gelling as a team. However, with the slate head coach Dennis Felton and company put together in the ramp-up to the Horizon League games, the Vikings have been dropped into the deep end of the pool and are asked to swim back to shore.

In the first six games, it’s clear that learning to win has been a lesson that has seen Cleveland State take steps forward and backward. Taking away the blowout at Rutgers, and you can see two, perhaps three games early on that could have been winnable for the Vikings.

But when you have a team with a new coach and whose veterans have suffered from back-to-back 20-loss seasons, the road to completing the final lessons in winning will be winding and, at times, full of potholes.

The primary lesson, at least in the early going, has been the ability to close out games. Against East Carolina and Central Connecticut State, Cleveland State was leading in the final minutes. And, in both cases, offensive outages, coupled with defensive lapses, proved to be too much to overcome at the end of both contests.

As frustrating as the losses have been (and you were all warned about this, by the way), you have gotten the sense that it was only a matter of time before the Vikings were finally able to get over the hump. And Wednesday’s match-up against Arkansas State was a sign that things were taking a turn in the right direction.

Sure, Cleveland State had kept letting the Red Wolves back into the game, as it had against ECU and CCSU. But this time, the Vikings hunkered down, and bolstered by a key block by Bobby Word and a defensive set that led to an unforced error by Arkansas State, CSU came through with the 75-72 victory.

“We talked about the first year and how important it is to build your culture and set a high standard of excellence,” Felton told The News-Herald after the win.

If any of this sounds familiar to longtime Cleveland State fans, that’s likely because the Vikings have been in this situation before. It was 11 years ago, to be exact when Gary Waters took over as the head coach after years of poor-to-middling teams capped by four straight 20-loss seasons.

That, as it seems, is where the similarities end. Waters, in his first year, was given the latitude to ease Cleveland State back on the winning track, bringing transfers like Cedric Jackson, Chris Moore and George Tandy into the mix, starting in Year Two.

Felton, on the other hand, has taken a different approach. First, he’s called on the senior holdovers from the Waters era, specifically Word, Kenny Carpenter and Anthony Wright, to step up in the starting rotation. In addition, lending to a sense of urgency, the new players he’s brought into the mix, freshmen Stefan Kenic and Tyree Appleby, along with Northern Illinois transfer Dontel Highsmith, have played big minutes so far this season.

While the Arkansas State win was a much-needed boost, the non-conference road doesn’t get any easier, which includes tough road contests against Top 25 teams Cincinnati and Michigan State. That said, the Vikings appear to be in a better position than preseason pundits saw them, and with the volatility of the Horizon League, don’t be surprised if they pull out some wins nobody expected.

Email Bob at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @bobmcdonald.

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Cleveland State’s Offensive Hopes Center Around an Improved Word

Make no mistake. The departure of Rob Edwards from Cleveland State was a major blow. The Vikings’ leading scorer was poised to have a breakout junior campaign but opted to transfer to Arizona State instead of making the transition from Gary Waters to Dennis Felton.

That said, Edwards was only part of CSU’s offensive picture from last season that has been wiped away. Demonte Flannigan’s points also won’t be there for Felton, as the starting forward graduated. Between Flannigan and Edwards, the Vikings will be missing out on nearly 41 percent of its scoring from last year.

Some might look at the incoming set of recruits to make up the difference. But the new class, which includes, freshmen Shawn Christian, Stefan Kenic and Tyree Appleby, as well as transfer Donte Highsmith, is kind of a wildcard, even though there is evidence from the Thursday exhibition against Cedarville that this group can fill some of those gaps.

What fans should look for this season, in addition to the prospect of throwing the new class into the fire immediately, is the leadership of the upperclassmen. And with six seniors on the roster, it’s little wonder that Felton should be able to look within to find some points.

And realistically, Felton should have to look no further than one of those seniors in the backcourt: Bobby Word.

While sophomore point guard Kash Thomas may certainly be a factor on the offensive end, depending on how quickly he comes back from a concussion, he will need some people to pass the ball to. And Word would qualify as those scoring options for Thomas.

Word, the senior transfer from Oral Roberts, would be the best choice, given that he is still slated to be in the starting rotation. He finished the 2015-16 campaign third on the team in scoring, matching Flannigan’s 11.1 points-per-contest. He also made an early splash that included a season-high 25 points against Western Michigan.

But as the season wore on, the three-point shooting that Word became known for got away from him, and he found himself in quite an offensive funk. The low point game in back-to-back games in February against Oakland and Valparaiso. The perfect storm of poor three-point shooting (0 percent) and fouling out effectively neutralized Word as an offensive concern.

Even as Felton has committed to a positionless system on the court, Word is expected to play a key role. And while the game situations might dictate that Felton plays multiple guards beyond the three that have been a Waters signature lineup, Word has the opportunity to be a focal point of the offense.

For Word to accomplish this, of course, he will need to cut down on the shooting slumps that bedeviled him for a good part of 2015-16. And if the droughts happen, they need to end rather quickly.

Such was the case during the exhibition against Cedarville. Even though he was relatively quiet offensively, Word would eventually drop six of 12 shots, including a pair of three-pointers, tallying 14 points before leaving the game with 5:56 left. Word also added four assists, three rebounds and a pair of steals.

With the opener at Akron on November 11th looming, Word is already emerging as the senior leader Felton needs in his inaugural campaign. That said, it’s important for Word to remain consistent on the offensive end if Cleveland State hopes to outperform the low expectations set forth by preseason prognosticators.

Email Bob at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @bobmcdonald.

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The 2017-18 Cleveland State Men’s Basketball Preview: Overachievers Wanted

For a number of years during the Gary Waters era, Cleveland State developed a reputation for outperforming its initial slot in pre-season conference predictions.

Now, with the arrival of Dennis Felton, the Vikings, who had languished at the bottom of the Horizon League standings as a result of two consecutive 20-loss seasons, will have to beat the odds again in order to outpace low expectations.

Sure, patience is preached by many of the CSU faithful. But even Felton will tell you that patience will only get you so far in college basketball. And for a program with both a recent history of losing and a lack of fans showing up to the arena, the wait-and-see approach won’t win you new faces in the crowd.

However, you can almost feel the forgiveness for the potential of a third-straight losing season coming down the pike. Demote Flannigan and walk-on Tim Hasbargen have graduated, and leading scorer Rob Edwards has transferred to Arizona State. Edwards was joined in exiting by fellow Class of 2015 recruit Jibri Blount, who made his way to North Carolina Central, as well as walk-ons Daniel Levitt and Nelson Maxwell.

And those were the guys who actually played a minute for Cleveland State. Redshirts Gavin Peppers, Andy Lucien, and PJ Posey all chose new schools during the transition between Waters and Felton.

Still, even with all of these departures, you have to think that a team with six seniors on the roster should be able to rise above the low expectations set forth by, well, everybody.

And the focal point of this Viking attack must come from senior Bobby Word, who, along with sophomore point guard Kash Thomas, started all 31 games last season. Word, the Oral Roberts transfer, will need to improve upon his strong suit, three-point shooting, which fluctuated wildly during the 2016-17 campaign.

The remaining seniors will be fighting for a more prominent role, as none of them averaged more than 17 minutes per contest. The primary candidate on this front will be senior Anthony Wright, who will likely see a boost in playing time with the graduation of Flannigan, and sophomore Evan Clayborne. Also competing for time in the frontcourt will be seniors Derek Sloan, who started 23 games but only averaged 12 minutes, and Jamarcus Hairston.

Kenny Carpenter will also likely be using his senior year to make his case for additional minutes, as well Terrelle Hales, although Hales has established himself more as a rebounding threat rather than a scorer, which CSU desperately needs in the wake of Edwards’ departure.

Thomas, who made Cleveland State history to start every game as a freshman, is certainly poised to improve upon that initial campaign. Word will be one of Thomas’ primary benefactors, of course, but the Vikings will also look to some of the new faces on the squad, specifically Northern Illinois transfer Dontel Highsmith and incoming freshmen guards Tyree Appleby and Shawn Christian.

Felton has also made it clear that he’s expanding the CSU recruiting base internationally, as evidenced by the hiring of Drazen Zlovaric and the arrival of 6-9 forward Stefan Kenic, who spent this summer as part of the U20 Serbian National Team that competed in the FIBA Euro Championships. Rounding out the new faces are a pair of recent additions at the beginning of the fall semester, St. Ignatius grad Deven Stover and David Payne, who comes to the Vikings for Malcolm X College.

With all of the personnel changes with coaches and players, the leadership from the CSU veterans will have to shine through, particularly during the non-conference schedule. With teams like Rutgers, Cincinnati, Michigan State, Akron and Kent State on tap, among others, Felton’s squad is going to get to the New Year’s Day Horizon League opener against Youngstown State either battle-tested or completely demoralized. And given how the last two seasons under Waters went, the Vikings can’t afford for the latter to happen.

Moreover, Cleveland State, which has been picked anywhere from sixth to last in the conference by pre-season pundits, needs to aspire to the higher of those predictions. And while a Viking return to the upper echelon of the Horizon League would take a Herculean effort, another 20-loss season would smack in the face of any patience fans may have.

E-mail Bob at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @bobmcdonald.

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Q Sweep Gives Cleveland State a Boost

Going into the game against Bethune-Cookman at Quicken Loans Arena, there were so many reasons to think that Cleveland State would have no problem dispatching of its MEAC foes. However, the specter of a four-game losing streak, coupled with the Vikings’ inability to win at the Q at all last season likely gave head coach Gary Waters a bit of pause.

In spite of Rob Edwards still appearing to be hampered by a hand injury (as evidenced by 8-14 from the free-throw line), he still managed to drop in 19 points. And a healthy Demonte Flannigan lead CSU with 21, allowing the Vikings to stave off a Wildcat surge, led by Quinton Forrest’s 24 points, to take their second win of the season, 73-62.

While the win was much-needed, especially on the heels of a 28-point drubbing at the hands of Arkansas State the game before, it did seem as if Cleveland State was a bit out of sorts. It probably didn’t help that the Vikings were a meager 21.9 percent on three-point shots.

Or perhaps it was because it seemed as if depth in the backcourt was seriously lacking against Bethune-Cookman. Gavin Peppers remains out with the bone bruise to his foot, and now walk-on Nelson Maxwell, who provided CSU with minutes backing up Kash Thomas, is out of the lineup with a hamstring injury.

Despite all of this, the Vikings regrouped and finally put together the kind of complete game fans have been hoping for all season with an 85-62 pasting of Western Michigan. The win game Cleveland State a sweep of the two games at the Q, a venue that gave the Vikings nothing but headaches last season, as they couldn’t muster a single win in the five games there.

In the win, Edwards’ hand appeared to be much improved from the previous game, shooting 50 percent from the field and finishing with 15 points. Flannigan, who has slowly but surely eased his way back into the swing of things since returning to the start lineup, dominated the paint and finished with 20 points.

But the big news coming out of the Q on Wednesday was the performance of Oral Roberts transfer Bobby Word. The junior had struggled mightily during the four-game slide, and even in the B-C game wasn’t terribly efficient (eight points on 3-9 shooting).

The WMU game, however, was a much different story.

Word practically couldn’t miss against the Broncos, and torched them on an astounding 75 percent (9-12) from the field, including making five shots from beyond the arc. His 25 points led all scorers, and could possibly serve as the spark the Vikings need on offense.

And that need won’t be felt more than it will be when Cleveland State travels to West Lafayette on Saturday to face 18th-ranked Purdue. And while the last ranked opponent the Vikings faced, then-No. 1 Kentucky, almost felt like an automatic loss, the Boilermakers, particularly their coach Matt Painter, isn’t underestimating CSU.

Whether the Vikings can retain the momentum from overcoming their woes early this season remains to be seen. But maybe Cleveland State, especially when Peppers, Maxwell and also-injured Anthony Wright return, can get to a point where it’s not sitting near the bottom of the Horizon League standings.

Email Bob at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @bobmcdonald.

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CSU Is a Case Study in a Tale of Two Teams

As I mentioned in my last column, this year’s Cleveland State squad will do things that will drive fans crazy, as the young players adjust to the college game and, more importantly, each other. Little did any of us know that one of those “make you crazy” moments would come to pass so quickly.

That moment, of course, came in the first half of the Vikings’ match-up against Tennessee-Martin, which was the second of four games that are part of the Bluegrass Showcase. With Cleveland State playing horrendously on offense, the Skyhawks had no problem taking advantage. And with 50 points in the first half, it appeared that even the signature Viking defense had all but fizzled away.

Being down 50-23 to open the second half, Cleveland State fans were probably shuffling for the remote control to find the Cavs game. But much like the opening contest against Kent State, when the Vikings found themselves down 20, the comeback began.

And throughout the second half, Cleveland State chipped away at the UT-Martin lead, getting it down to single digits and, thanks to a pair of Jibri Blount free throws, got as close as 70-66. In the end, though, the deficit proved to be insurmountable, as the Skyhawks prevailed, 85-74.

Fans will tell you that are no such things as moral victories, but with the type of team the Vikings have right now, you’ll take what you can get. And yes, fans should expect that no matter the circumstances, Cleveland State has to get into the habit of playing for the entire game, rather than let the opponent run of the score in the first 20 minutes.

That said, the second half of the UT-Martin game proved that the Vikings are capable of some serious damage. Cleveland State forced the Skyhawks to cough up the ball 16 times in that half, and outrebounded them, 22-17. For a Viking squad that was already short on size, with senior Demonte Flannigan still out of the lineup, being able to outmuscle UT-Martin on the boards was nothing short of a miracle.

However, with the third game in the Bluegrass Showcase coming up against Kentucky, there is absolutely no room for error. The top-ranked Wildcats, through their first four games, have been tearing their opponents apart. That includes drubbing then-No. 13 Michigan State, 69-48, on the Spartans’ home court.

And Kentucky hasn’t been taking it easy on the Bluegrass Showcase foes, either. In fact, the Wildcats essentially used its wins against Canisius and Duquesne as glorified exhibition games. Kentucky used its sensational backcourt to roll the Golden Griffins, 93-69. Then, after cruising against the Spartans, the Wildcats hammered the Dukes, 93-59.

Not helping Cleveland State’s prospects on Wednesday is the fact that its dearth of size will be exploited by Kentucky, as 6-10 freshmen Edrice Adebayo will be leading the charge in the frontcourt. And as promising as the Viking guards have been with Rob Edwards, Bobby Word and Kash Thomas, the Wildcats will counter with their three best scorers, Isaiah Briscoe, Malik Monk and De’Aaron Fox.

All signs basically point to a huge Kentucky win. But, as was evidenced by Cleveland State’s fight with the Wildcats in 2013, you can never count out a Gary Waters-led team.

Then again, if the Vikings don’t show up for the first half again, Kentucky, unlike CSU’s previous opponents, will have none of any sort of comeback and make things worse.

Email Bob at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @bobmcdonald.

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Welcome to the Cleveland State Youth Movement

Cleveland State men’s basketball coach Gary Waters has always relied on senior leadership throughout his tenure to provide some form of stability to his squad. In years past, you could easy differentiate the successful teams from those that weren’t based on the number of seniors on the roster.

Using that as a measure, it’s rather easy to see that in years where only one senior played a role in the rotation, the Vikings struggled. This was true during the 2012-13 season, Tim Kamczyc’s senior year, and last season, when Vinny Zollo was the lone senior.

So, in a season as critical and as uncertain as this one is for Cleveland State, it’s a bit surprising that only one senior, Demonte Flannigan, is a part of this roster. And for the first two games against Kent State and Canisius, the Vikings didn’t even have him. Prior to the game against the Flashes at Youngstown State’s Beeghly Center, Flannigan was rushed to the hospital due to chest pains.

And he wasn’t cleared to play in the subsequent game versus the Golden Griffins, either, which left Cleveland State down three players, with Flannigan joining juniors Gavin Peppers and Terrelle Hales on the sidelines.

In the opening half of the Kent State game, fans could feel the sense of dread that dogged them all last year creep in. The Vikings were shooting blanks and going down by as much as 21 points with five minutes left in the half. Not helping matters was the fact that fans who couldn’t make the trip to Youngstown found themselves shut out of both the audio and video feeds online for a big chunk of that half.

But a funny thing happened on the way to navel-gazing. Cleveland State finally snapped out of what’s been a nearly year-long funk and did what it usually does when knocked down: fight back. And it was Jamarcus Hairston, the junior-college forward, who tossed in a three-pointer to force overtime against the Flashes.

Even though the Vikings ran out of gas and fell, 79-74, it seemed as if there may be some glimpses of what had been hallmarks of the program in the Waters era. And something else stuck out as noteworthy: The underclassmen, particularly the freshmen and sophomores, played a major role in the comeback.

In years past, Waters has been adamant about not starting freshmen right away. This was even true last year, as Rob Edwards didn’t get his first start until the Rhode Island game and Jibri Blount didn’t get the nod until the January 30th contest against Horizon League foe UIC.

However, it seems that necessity, and perhaps a superstar in the making, has prompted Waters to re-think his original notion. With Peppers out, Waters turned to freshman Kash Thomas to take on the role of floor general. And in the Kent State game, he finished with 13 points and nine assists.

And Flannigan’s absence has spurred on Evan Clayborne’s introduction into the rotation, chipping in four rebounds in 32 minutes against the Flashes.

The youth movement’s next test came on Tuesday night against Canisius, and impressively, the Vikings did something else fans haven’t seen in a while: provide a balanced attack against its foe. Five Cleveland State players, including Edwards, Blount, Thomas, junior Bobby Word and, coming out of nowhere, Derek Sloan, all scored in double figures en route to a 67-64 win.

Without a senior in the rotation at the moment, it appears that the Vikings have made the adjustments needed, making this a potential sign that the 2015-16 disaster will soon be a distant memory. With a very tough UT-Martin squad coming up and nationally-ranked Kentucky on the horizon, wins may be hard to come by in the near-term.

But as Waters would likely echo sentiments he’s conveyed in years past: Judge this team in January and February. Perhaps this year, that judgment will be that Cleveland State is back to where it usually is: Within shouting distance of the top of the Horizon League standings.

Email Bob at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @bobmcdonald.

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Vikings Open Season Plus a Scorer, Minus a Point Guard

Exhibitions, by their very nature, aren’t exactly supposed to tell us much. For the most part, teams use these as a tune-up for the wear-and-tear of the upcoming season. And since the opponent is typically a non-Division I school, most teams go into exhibitions with two goals: Stay healthy and don’t lose (like Detroit Mercy has done. Twice).

In Cleveland State’s case, though, there was an extra goal in mind going into its preseason tilt against Division II Tiffin. Since the Vikings were, by all accounts, scoring impaired last season, it was important for them to dip into the pool of new recruits to see who could be that second scoring option behind Rob Edwards.

And in CSU’s 89-67 win against the Dragons, it appears there may be more than one candidate for the job. And at least one of those hopefuls is a familiar face to Viking fans.

Oral Roberts transfer Bobby Word, who has been widely touted for his ability to score, did exactly that on Monday night, finishing the game with 14 points in 25 minutes of work. In a competition for a spot in the starting rotation, it was Word who took the spot against Tiffin, and took full advantage of it, recording four steals to go along with his two three-pointers.

Kenny Carpenter staked his claim in the scoring role as well on Monday. While consistency was a question for the junior last season, the exhibition served as an opportunity to back up all of those off-season workouts with action. In his 16 minutes of action, Carpenter also notched 14 points, which included a pair of his own treys.

In fact, three-point shooting, which has, in recent years, given head coach Gary Waters bouts of indigestion, was surprisingly hot against the Dragons. And while nobody expects the Vikings to routinely shoot 43 percent from beyond the arc, the 10 three-pointers they made against Tiffin were a nice change of pace from the dearth of such shots last season.

The bad news, though, is that the Vikings will once again find themselves without the services of an experienced point guard in the short term. Junior college transfer Gavin Peppers, who was one of the frontrunners to start at the point this season, was seen in a walking boot. As Tom Mieskoski reported, Peppers has a rather significant bone bruise and will miss three to five weeks as a result.

While the lack of a true point guard may have been a major source of dread last season, there was a bright silver lining that came out of the exhibition that could allay fan fears, at least temporarily. The other point guard Waters signed, freshman Kash Thomas, appears to be up to the task to take on the court general role.

In his 29 minutes, Thomas had himself a highly efficient evening, recording four assists on only a pair of turnovers. And like many Cleveland State guards before him, Thomas seems to be quite the thief, finishing the game with four steals, tying Word for the team lead.

While the backcourt looks to be much-improved from the previous campaign, the frontcourt will likely remain a major issue. Perhaps it was because both Demonte Flannigan and Jibri Blount were limited to 20 and 19 minutes, respectively, but the Vikings were out-rebounded by their Division II foe, 42 to 32. It may be an omen of things to come against higher caliber opponents.

Now that the exhibition is out of the way, the real season begins on Saturday against Kent State at the NE Ohio Coaches vs. Cancer Classic, which is being hosted by Youngstown State this year. Cleveland State kicks off its home slate next Tuesday against Canisius, a contest that is part of the Bluegrass Showcase.

Email Bob at [email protected].

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The 2016-17 Cleveland State Men’s Basketball Preview: Your Guess Is as Good as Mine

Cleveland State men’s basketball coach Gary Waters, throughout the course of one of the worst campaigns of his career last season, hinted that he wanted to start fresh for 2016-17. Nobody could really blame him, with a dismal 9-23 showing, a first-round conference tournament exit and turmoil at basically every turn.

Looking at what Waters has put together for this year, there’s really no telling what’s going to happen.

Even the college basketball pundits, in their annual prognostications, are varying wildly as to how the Vikings will end up in the Horizon League standings, from as high as fifth to as low as ninth. Even the official conference preseason rankings had CSU predicted to finish eighth.

Realistically, any of those predictions could be right because, honestly, nobody has a clue what Cleveland State is capable of.

One thing that can be said about this Viking squad is that the leader of this team is, in fact, a sophomore. That’s Rob Edwards. The All-Freshman guard, and pre-season Second Team All-Horizon League pick, seemingly came out of nowhere to lead the team in scoring, with 12.4 points per game. For a team that ranked at the bottom of all teams (not just the conference) in scoring at 60.8 points per contest, to get that type of production was sorely needed.

The problem was, though, that Edwards was far more efficient off the dribble than he was running the point. Actually, that was Cleveland State’s problem for the duration of the 2015-16 season.

While so much was made of the transfers by Trey Lewis and Anton Grady, the one thing that really killed CSU was the lack of a true point guard. That wasn’t supposed to be a problem for Waters, but his depth in the backcourt disintegrated even before the season began.

Kaza Keane, who was projected to be the starter, returned to his native Canada to thrive with national champion Carleton University. And Myles Hamilton, the other pure point guard on the roster, imploded, starting the season suspended and ending up kicked off the team after a verbal altercation during the Green Bay game. That left freshman walk-on Nelson Maxwell, and a patchwork of shooting guards left to shoulder the load.

Waters wasn’t about to tempt fate this year, snagging Laramie County (WY) Community College’s Gavin Peppers and freshman Kash Thomas from Quebec. In addition to their skills at point guard, both can provide another need from beyond the arc, as Peppers and Thomas shot 37 and 44 percent, respectively, from three-point range.

Beyond alleviating the point guard issue, Edwards should get much more help in the scoring department with the Cleveland State debut of Oral Roberts transfer Bobby Word. Averaging 8.4 points a game for the Golden Eagles, he saved his best for the end, including a 22-point effort against Loyola-Chicago in the CBI. Walk-on sharpshooter Daniel Levitt will also make his return after sitting out a huge chunk of the season with a knee injury.

As guard depth has long been a signature of the Waters era, it also means there’s probably going to be a risk of some odd men out, with playing time coming at a premium. Walk-on Tim Hasbargen from Germany will likely return to the end of the bench, now that the guard coffers have once again been filled.

But what of Kenny Carpenter and Terrelle Hales? Despite Hales’ strength on defense and Carpenter’s flashes of skill last year, the two juniors may find themselves on the outside looking in, especially if the bulk of the scoring is being provided by the backcourt.

Size is still a major issue for the Vikings, with no one over 6’8″. While this may not matter in the Horizon League contests (the key exceptions being UIC and preseason favorite Valparaiso), non-conference foes, such as Kentucky and Purdue, could have a field day.

That notwithstanding, there will be depth in the frontcourt, with the lone CSU senior, Demonte Flannigan, leading the way. As the team’s leading returning rebounder and second-leading scorer, the Villa Angela-St. Joseph’s product will need to keep out of foul trouble, an issue that plagued him much of last season.

Jibri Blount will also be providing key minutes at forward, coming back after his own impressive freshman year. Though hampered by an ankle injury down the stretch, Blount did make five starts last year.

They will be joined by 6’8″ juco transfer Jamarcus Hairston, a third-team Division II All-NJCAA player from Louisburg Junior College. Hairston, who averaged nine boards per game and possesses range beyond the arc, could be an x-factor for the Vikings, in terms of stretching out the floor.

A pair of other unknown quantities on the frontcourt will be another juco transfer, Anthony Wright, and Evan Clayborne, a freshman from Dayton Thurgood Marshall. Derek Sloan will also be returning for his junior year and, like Wright, will be rotating between guard and forward slots.

With so much change, Waters appears to be in win-now mode, perhaps for the first time since he’s been at Cleveland State. So perhaps it’s no surprise that the Vikings are really wildcards when it comes to where they’ll finish out the season.

That leads to the biggest question of all. If Cleveland State should somehow come out on the low end of preseason predictions, what becomes of Waters?

Conventional wisdom would lead you to believe that no matter the outcome this season, Waters would not face a day of reckoning until after a new athletic director is selected after John Parry retires.

Like the preseason predictions, Waters’ own future may very well be anyone’s guess.

Email Bob at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @bobmcdonald.

Image via CSUVikings.com

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Cleveland State Hires a New LaCrosse Coach (And Everything Else You Missed!)

Apparently with the end of the school year, everybody who wrote about Cleveland State athletics followed the lead of CSU’s student publications, the Cauldron and Cleveland Stater, and shut it down for the summer. Naturally, the student publications get a pass, since they don’t fire back up until August.

The rest of us, on the other hand, have been major slugs. And yes, I have included myself in this verbal brow-beating. Seriously, where the hell have I been the last three weeks?

Meanwhile, there’s actually been quite a few things going on at Cleveland State recently, so now is as good a time as any to get everybody up to speed on what’s been going on since the last time we got together.

First up, there’s the announcement that just about everybody was waiting for. No, CSU isn’t giving up on men’s lacrosse. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.

Even though the Vikings won’t officially start play until the spring of 2017, they do need somebody to put the program together. And that person will be Dylan Sheridan, who was named the first men’s lacrosse coach. The Hudson native, who played in high school at Western Reserve Academy, spent the past year as the defensive coordinator for Princeton.

While with the Tigers, Sheridan also played a key role in recruiting, as well as working with players on training and defensive schemes. His work paid off, as Princeton won a share of the regular-season Ivy League title this past year.

Princeton head coach Chris Bates believes that Cleveland State will be Sheridan’s opportunity to shine.

“Dylan is very bright, articulate, and has a great knowledge of the game,” Bates said. “I think he will do great things at CSU. While we are all sorry to see him go, we are excited to watch him build the Viking program and develop the game of lacrosse in the greater Cleveland area.”

Prior to that, Sheridan served as an assistant coach at the University of Denver, where he was part of a staff that churned out Final Four appearances in 2011, 2013 and 2014.

The most interesting part of Sheridan’s background is that while at Clermont-McKenna College in California, he was a four-year letterman in football. His lacrosse experience there was as a club player, though he still excelled, being named as a Men’s Collegiate Lacrosse Association (MCLA) All-American three times.

Keep this in mind when he starts out on the recruiting trail. Cleveland State has fielded a club team for several years, winning the Midwest North Conference in National Collegiate Lacrosse League’s Division II and making it to the Elite Eight this past season. With a NCAA Division I program being built, perhaps Sheridan has some opportunity to recruit on-campus.

Of course, his main target will be those high school programs in Northeast Ohio, which was athletic director John Parry’s primary target to begin with when he brought men’s lacrosse into the fold. Sheridan’s history with tenure could provide a pipeline for the Vikings, though he’ll use his experience as a recruiting coordinator to tap into some of the other area programs.

Undoubtedly, there will be an awkward meeting at some point between Sheridan and Ben Stehura, the head coach of the wrestling team Parry tried to defund. But it will certainly be amicable. After all, it wasn’t Sheridan who tried to wipe wrestling off the CSU map.

A New Face…But Others Leaving…

The Cleveland State women’s basketball team has found itself a replacement for associate head coach Bernard Scott. And like the hiring of men’s assistant coach Jermaine Henderson to replace Jermaine Kimbrough, Scott’s replacement has some significant roots in the Horizon League that can help the Vikings rebuild after losing three seniors to graduation.

Head coach Kate Peterson Abiad hired Beth Couture as her new assistant, and she definitely knows her way around the conference. That’s because as the head coach at Butler from 2002 to 2014, Couture was pivotal in making the Bulldogs a competitive team again, as evidenced by four 20-win seasons and three WNIT berths when they were still in the Horizon League.

Butler’s transition to the Atlantic 10 then to the Big East did not go as well for Couture, and despite a fifth WNIT appearance in 2014, a 15-16 record and four player transfers resulted in her ouster after the season. She spent the last year at Division II Converse College in Spartanburg, South Carolina.

Even with Couture’s hire, let’s not put aware the “Help Wanted” shingle for the women’s basketball team just year. Peterson Abiad will be seeking another assistant, as Darryl Brown, who was on the Cleveland State staff the past two season, has taken the associate head coaching job at the University of Memphis.

And yet another person on the men’s side has opted to leave CSU and head coach Gary Waters. This time, it’s Director of Basketball Operations and former player Victor Morris. He is now running North Louisiana Elite Skills Training in Shreveport, where he is putting together youth camps, much as he had for Waters over the summer at the Wolstein Center.

But it’s not all bad news on the men’s side. Waters will be bringing in another transfer soon in the form of 6-4 shooting guard Bobby Word, who announced on Twitter that he was heading to Cleveland State. Word, a native of Lancaster, Texas, averaged 8.4 points per game in his sophomore campaign at Oral Roberts. Fans will, of course, have to wait a year to see him play, as he will have to sit out, per NCAA transfer rules.

The Softball Team in Australia. No Really, They Are.

Anybody who has done a Twitter search on the term Cleveland State may have found themselves staring at a few odd posts that seem to indicate that the softball team is playing in Australia. As it turns out, the Vikings actually are currently in the land Down Under, traveling with the USA Athletes International team as part of the Softball Australia International Friendship Series.

Because of NCAA rules, CSU won’t be going up against the USAAI team, but they are playing against a number of Aussie teams. The trip didn’t start out great for the Vikings, getting blanked, 3-0, by New South Wales. But they turned in around in the second game of their first day, crushing the Wolves Softball Club, 11-0.

On Day Two, Cleveland State completed the clean sweep, besting the New Zealand Developmental Team, 4-1, and the Australia Green squad, 13-4. Day Three saw the Vikings split their games again, dropping a close 2-1 contest against Queensland rebounding with a 9-5 win over Wynnum. CSU wraps up pool play against the Coyotes Softball Club and Australia Gold on Thursday before heading into the knock-out round.