Tag Archives: Terrelle Hales

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.

Image via CSUVikings.com

Cleveland State Returns Home (Sort Of) Battered and Beaten

It has really gotten to the point at Cleveland State where it’s become extremely difficult to figure out if there’s any progress happening. The initial returns did indicate that maybe, just maybe, the Vikings would avoid the fate that felled them last season. And let’s face it, nobody wants to see a repeat of last year.

But even with leaving the 101-70 drubbing at the hands of Kentucky out of the equation (since the Wildcats are putting that kind of hurting on all opponents this season), the measure of progress is looking harder to find.

And when Cleveland State continues to make the same mistakes over and over again (Read: long scoring droughts, giving up double-digit leads, etc.), it makes anybody wonder if the cycle of misery experienced from 2015-16 isn’t coming back to rear its ugly head.

Making matters worse is what appears to be a decided lack of depth, in spite of a rather robust rotation that coach Gary Waters has utilized. This has become a particularly glaring issue at point guard, where Gavin Peppers is still out of the rotation with a bone bruise on his foot.

Freshman Kash Thomas, as promising as he has been early on, has also run into some issues that his inexperience and a dearth of help in the rotation have brought to light. Kentucky and, most recent, Arkansas State have been able to target him on defense and, as a consequence, make him a non-factor on offense, as evidenced by limiting him to zero points in the first halves of both contests.

Now, the injury bug has come to claim Rob Edwards, CSU’s leading scorer, even as Demonte Flannigan and Terrelle Hales have come back from early health issues. A hand injury resulted in him sitting out of practice prior to the road trip against the Red Wolves. And limited to 22 minutes in the 78-51 rout at the hands of Arkansas State, Edwards was held scoreless.

In fact, with the Vikings sporting a 1-5 record, it seems as if the only highlight of the upcoming home game at Quicken Loans Arena against Bethune-Cookman is the return of a Cleveland State great. The Wildcats are coached by Gravelle Craig, who was part of the 1992-93 Vikings squad that tore through the Mid-Continent Conference (now called the Summit League) en route to a regular-season title.

For his part, Craig garner first-team all-conference honors (to go along with his second-team honors the previous year) and honorable mention All-American recognition from Basketball Weekly that season. His 5.5 assists per game remains the all-time record for dishes in CSU history.

The emotional boost that will be part of this Ohio homecoming for Craig, along with several members of the Bethune-Cookman roster and staff (including senior writer Dan Ryan) won’t be the only thing the Vikings will have to contend with. Cleveland State will also have to find an answer for the Wildcats’ junior guard, Brandon Tabb.

The 6-5 juco transfer has been on a tear, and was recently named MEAC Co-Player of the Week. Tabb’s 22.1 points per game also leads the conference and ranks him 22nd in the entire country, plus he is second nationally in three-pointers made.

With as many issues as the Vikings have had defending beyond the arc, even in their sole win against Canisius, having Tabb go off on them won’t help matters. And with the Bethune-Cookman faithful seemingly more excited about the game at the Q than Cleveland State fans are, the last thing Waters needs is reinforcement of his assertion that games at the home of the Cavaliers are little more than neutral-site contests to him.

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

Image via CSUVikings.com

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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The 2015-16 Cleveland State Men’s Basketball Preview: If a Tree Falls In the Woods…

This is probably the part of the year in which I run around like Glinda the Good Witch of the North singing, “Wake up, wake up, wherever you are” to the obviously slumbering masses of Cleveland State basketball fans (and most of the media, for that matter).

But that’s pretty pointless. Most of you are probably going to sleep-walk through this upcoming season.

That said, for those of you who have been hibernating since the Vikings fell to NJIT, 80-77 in the CollegeInsiders.com Tournament last season, here’s what you missed.

First, everybody left the team. That’s a little bit of an embellishment, but all of Cleveland State’s top scorers are gone. You probably knew that, though, when you were watching SportsCenter and happened to spot a clip of Wichita State or Louisville and saw either Anton Grady or Trey Lewis. And you likely thought to yourself, “Hey, wasn’t that guy at CSU last year?”

They were. And they wanted a chance to be on the big stage. Cleveland State, we keep hearing, is not that.

In fact, one of these overriding themes you will probably hear this season, if you hadn’t heard it 100 times already, is that CSU is the poster child for everything that’s wrong with NCAA transfer rules.

The Vikings probably tried to sell both on staying. But it’s terribly hard to do that when the team finished last in the Horizon League in home attendance and can only get some crazy guy from More Than a Fan: Cleveland to cover them on a regular basis, even in the off-season.

Add in the fact that Valparaiso is the heavy favorite to repeat as conference champs and, well, that’s pretty much it. Head coach Gary Waters didn’t have a chance to keep them. So he wished them well and off they went to seek fame and fortune.

There were also the graduations of Charlie Lee and Marlin Mason, plus Kaza Keane returning home to Canada. So, you can pretty much see where this Viking team is headed this season, leaving only Andre Yates and Vinny Zollo as the players with any starting time.

Now, before you continue to burn your invoices for season tickets (which you probably started doing when you found out you’d pay full price to watch a pair of non-Division I teams again), next year should actually not be a complete disaster.

Sure, Waters will pretty much be starting from scratch in the frontcourt. Zollo made some starts when Cleveland State had to compensate for Mason’s illness. But that leaves the role of replacing Grady in the hands of either Demonte Flannigan or Aaron Scales. And nobody has a clue what to make of redshirt freshman Jono Janssen.

The lack of a Grady-like presences up front will likely provide a window of opportunity to incoming recruits Jibri Blount and Jeron “Buddha” Rogers.  Both are sons of pro athletes (Jibri’s father is Steelers Hall of Famer Mel Blount; Jeron’s father is NBA lottery pick Carlos Rogers). And both had a reputation for being monsters on the glass, with Blount averaging 11 rebounds a game and Rogers pulling down eight boards a contest.

However, Waters has typically favored upperclassmen in starting roles, at least in the beginning of the season. So Rogers and Blount will probably be fighting for playing minutes off the bench when the season tips off.

Yates, of course, will be the undisputed leader of this team at guard. It’s also a safe bet that he will also lead the team in scoring as well. And he will probably be joined by Myles Hamilton, the transfer from Kennesaw State who Waters granted a scholarship in the off-season. With Waters likely going with a traditional three-guard set on the floor, that third player in the backcourt will probably be Terrelle Hales.

The sophomore from Detroit was the breakout freshman last season, making the most of his opportunities by tearing down offensive rebounds seemingly at will. He was hampered by an ankle injury near the end of the season, but that didn’t stop him from notching four steal in the February loss to Valpo.

Kenny Carpenter will also fight for playing time at guard this season. His shining moment came during the CIT, when he played a season-high 27 minutes in the loss to NJIT. With Hales likely moving into the starting spot, Carpenter will have to contribute off the bench.

And yes, Derek Sloan will be back this season. The 6-6 guard out of St. Ignatius was mostly used in a defensive role. With the arrival of Rogers, Blount and guard Rob Edwards, there’s a good chance that Sloan will find himself slotted in that “break glass in case of emergency” role again this season.

What really stands out the most about this Viking roster is its sheer volume. Along with the team’s scholarship players, Cleveland State has four walk-ons, including the most recent addition, Dan Levitt from Montreal, who joins German Tim Hasbargen, senior Khyler Fields and newcomer Nelson Maxwell, who was coached by former Viking Derrick Ziegler at Orange.

Looking at the entire schedule, while Cleveland State will probably not be looking at a horrendous showing like it did in 2012-13, it probably won’t be setting the world on fire, either. Waters hasn’t been able to figure Toledo out since Tod Kowalczyk took over as head coach. And Akron and Kent State look to have big seasons ahead of them.

But Bowling Green was blindsided by the dismissal of coach Chris Jans after an embarrassing incident at a bar. Plus Saul Phillips at Ohio hasn’t completely rebuilt that program in his image yet. The two non-Division I games should be instants wins, as should the Cancun Challenge tilts against Rider and either Houston Baptist or South Dakota State.

A return to Chicago to face old Horizon League foe Loyola could be a coin-flip, given the Ramblers’ lack of size. Belmont and Rhode Island look like tough games to win, and the road trip to Maryland, who is picked to finish at the top of the Big Ten standings, will be a virtually impossible game to win.

For as much as has been made about where the Vikings will finish in the conference, the arrival of Northern Kentucky and the changes around the Horizon League as far as players and coaches would leave you to believe that they will finish in the middle of the pack.

Given teams during the Waters era tending to overperform in most years they are supposed to be down, I would predict that Cleveland State will finish fifth in the league this year. The irony, should this come true, would be that this year’s team would finish only slightly worse than last season.Plus, if the Vikings finish a tick over .500, don’t be surprised if they end up in the CIT again.

And they will probably do it with very little fanfare, which apparently is the way they seem to like it these days.

If you’ve made it this far, I have a mission for you. Not that I’m running out of ideas or anything, but what would you like see me write about this season. Reply to me on Twitter – @bobmcdonald.

Kaza Keane Bolts, Leaving Cleveland State With Yet Another Hole to Fill

Remember when Cleveland State was going into the 2015-2016 season with a healthy dose of senior leadership?

Yes, that memory is getting fuzzier and fuzzier as the days leading up to next season.

Call it whatever you want: Extremely bad luck, an odd alignment of the NCAA rules playing against them or an indictment of the Gary Waters system that was, until very recently, not producing very damaging departures. It’s still happening to the Vikings, and still, nobody has any kind of answers that make sense.

This time, it’s Kaza Keane, the transfer from Ajax, Ontario by way of Illinois State. Per a report by long-time CSU blogger Tom Mieskoski, Keane was not among the players back for the summer session and ever again, apparently. For the second year in a row, Keane will be seeking a new school to play at.

Keane, of course, will mark the third player who will be transferring from Cleveland State, following fellow guard Trey Lewis, who will play for Rick Pitino at Louisville, and forward Anton Grady, who will call Wichita State home next year.

While his stats from last year were rather mundane, only averaging 4.4 points per game, he did start 20 contests during the 2014-15 campaign, spotting Charlie Lee during his two suspensions and assuming Andre Yates’ spot in the rotation when he went down with an ankle injury and was subsequently moved to the role of sixth man.

It was already a given that Yates would assume the role of the leader in this squad. That said, we at least though he was going to have a little help from Keane with his starting experience in the backcourt. And at least with the departure of Lewis and Lee, Keane would have added a little more depth at guard that includes Yates, Kenny Carpenter, Terrelle Hales, Kennesaw State transfer Myles Hamilton and freshman Rob Edwards.

No longer. A line-up that was already going have to try to figure out how to play without most of its starters from last season gets to figure it out with one less guy.

With graduation and transfers, Cleveland State will have to fill the chasm left by more than 75 percent of last year’s scoring walking out the door.

This will also leave only Yates and Vinny Zollo, the other senior on scholarship remaining (Kyler Fields is a walk-on), as the only players with any starts, as Zollo filled in for Marlin Mason who sat due to illness.

Prospects for 2015-16 already had looked bleak for Viking fans, with everybody seemingly walking out the door, not just players. Waters has also had to fill two spots in the coaching staff, when long-time assistant Jermaine Kimbrough and, most recently, Director of Basketball Operations and former CSU player Victor Morris leaving.

Now that Keane is out of the picture, even though there may not have been a lot in the way offensive productivity last year, there was at least some hope for a little bit of experience in the backcourt and, again, senior leadership.

That’s gone, and with it, potentially, was Cleveland State last opportunity to compete in the upper half of the Horizon League without it being a complete surprise to anybody.

Certainly, there is the prospect that the Vikings will outperform their losses. In fact, aside from the disastrous 2012-13 season, Waters has been able to get his team to overachieve.

But honestly, do fans want to go into the season opener banking on hope? Again?

From what it looks like, fans, much like Cleveland State students and, more to the point, most media outlets, have essentially taken the summer off from CSU to concentrate on other things, from the Cavs off-season to the Browns to watching paint dry. At a glance, it looks as if the dwindling fan base is getting smaller and less attentive as the years drag on.

None of this is really surprising. Hell, half of the columns that I have written over the past year make me feel like I am talking to myself. This one is shaping up to be no different in that department.

But it’s not like anybody else is asking anything at this point. The annual season ticket holder event is coming soon. As we did last year, we’ll speculate on the types of questions that could possibly get asked. Not to give anything away, but it’s a good bet this year’s questions could be a bit snarkier. And it probably won’t be because Cleveland State finished last in the conference in home attendance.

Probably.

CSU Softball Wraps Up Trip Down Under

It appears that at least one Cleveland State team is enjoying the summer. That tends to happen when you get to travel abroad.

The Vikings wrapped up their portion of the Softball Australia International Series late last week in Brisbane with a trio of games and a third-place finish in the tournament. The first two, which set up the draw for the final day, saw Cleveland State lose a close contest to Australia Gold, 3-2. The decision catapulted Gold to the top of the standings, and eliminated the Vikings from the championship game.

After that, CSU turned it around, much as it had all tourney, by crushing its second-game opponent, this time the Coyotes Softball Club, 11-0. This set up a playoff round match-up with New South Wales, who had blanked the Vikings, 3-0, on the first day.

Cleveland State would avenge its defeat by blanking New South Wales, 9-0, clinching its third-place finish. USA Athletes International, the Vikings’ travel partner, would go on to win the tournament with an 11-0 romp of Australia Gold.

The Vikings picked up individual awards as well, with senior shortstop Cynthia Woodard leading the way being tabbed most valuable player. She was also joined on the All-Tournament team by freshman outfielder Kait Garing.

And, of course, no trip to the Gold Coast of Australia would be complete without a trip to the beach, surfboard in hand, which CSU made sure to do.

Can the Horizon League Slate Fix Cleveland State’s Season of Blah?

A mid-February game against Western Carolina notwithstanding, Cleveland State has closed out its non-conference schedule with a 72-63 loss at Virginia Commonwealth. As has been the case throughout the early part of the year, the Vikings spent large swaths of time not scoring at all. The fact that they were able to keep it close is yet another testament to the toughness display by the CSU defense.

But as any Cleveland Browns fan will tell you, it doesn’t matter what kind of defense you have. Without any offense, you’re out of luck.

And this has really be the overriding theme of the Cleveland State non-conference slate. The defense, which has always been a point of pride for head Coach Gary Waters, has been as good as it has ever been. That said, the erratic play on the offensive end has just killed anything Waters has wanted to accomplish.

For any team, the non-conference schedule is an opportunity to assess what you have and develop what you don’t have. In CSU’s case, it seemed as if progress was made at one point, it took a step backward at another point.

Truly this was the case for Cleveland State, especially with a 6-8 record. The Vikings couldn’t put together consecutive wins against Division I opponents, and losses to Savannah State and Eastern Illinois fall under the “How on Earth Is That Possible?” category.

Now, being sub-.500 in non-conference games is not the biggest sign of panic. Three of those losses came from top teams, including VCU, Virginia and Louisville. And in years past, Cleveland State as fared far worse out of conference and against more questionable competition.

At the same time, moral victories against high-major teams have never really inspired the masses to come out to the Wolstein Center, nor has it sparked much attention from the local media.

To put it bluntly, the Vikings have entered into what I can only describe as a Season of Blah.

Yes, winning puts eyes on a team. Impressively enough, so does flaming out in spectacular fashion. Look at the end of every Browns season if you need any proof of that.

Blah doesn’t really do any of that.

The first part of the Horizon League schedule could possibly take the blah out of this season, albeit very, very slowly.

It was certainly the case in the home conference opener against Milwaukee, in which Cleveland State couldn’t get anything go offensively like clockwork and were down by three at halftime.

Then came the second half.

Nobody’s exactly sure what happened, but the Vikings couldn’t miss. No, really. Cleveland State shot 82 percent from the floor in the second half. And all those three-pointers CSU has been chucking up for most of the non-conference slate? Against the Panthers, the Vikings only shot 11. In place of shots beyond the arc came an astounding 52 points in the paint.

Obviously, a 27-point beatdown of Milwaukee could very well be mistaken as an aberration. Only the next three games against Illinois-Chicago, Oakland and Valparaiso show if Cleveland State has learned from its non-conference trials or if this truly will be a Season of Blah.

Of Course Aaron Scales Did That

Last week, I spent quite a bit of time unloading on the red-shirt sophomore big man for his performance down the stretch of the Eastern Illinois loss.

So it only makes sense that this week, I get to eat a heaping helping of crow.

Scales turned in an excellent performance against VCU, scoring eight points and grabbing a career-high nine rebounds. He took full advantage of his playing time against the Rams while Anton Grady was getting patched up after taking an elbow to his head.

It has become more apparent that Scale will become the next guy off the bench in the frontcourt after Vinny Zollo. This was originally the hope all along that he would be able to make the type of contributions to alleviate some pressure in the middle on Grady.

And so I must retract my statement last week openly wondering about Scales’ development. Let’s hope I can continue to be further proven wrong in the future.

The 1-2 Defensive Punch in the Backcourt

Friday’s blowout of Milwaukee featured one of those strange occasions where Andre Yates, who has clearly become the defensive leader of the Vikings, actually took a back seat to someone who was playing even better.

That honor went to freshman Terrell Hales, who put split time at the third guard position with Yates against the Panthers. In his 18 minutes, Hales was all over the place, finishing with four points, four rebounds, three assists and three steals.

With Hales and Yates in the rotation with the kind of defensive power Waters covets on his teams, they will both be extremely valuable during the conference schedule, especially if Cleveland State gets into a scoring drought and needs to keep other teams from taking advantage.

The Horizon League Expansion Speculation

Prior to the start of the Cleveland State-Virginia Commonwealth game, CSU athletic director John Parry discussed potential expansion of the Horizon League with radio play-by-play announcer Al Pawlowski. When talking about this, fans of any Horizon League school cross their and hope that they don’t hear a glut of initials (read: IUPUI or IPFW).

Instead, Parry mentioned four schools as possible entries. The first was one already familiar to some in the Horizon League – Belmont. The Bruins already are a conference member in soccer and have agreed to play conference schools in a number of other sports. The idea of becoming a full-time league member would be considered the next natural step.

The second school, Northern Kentucky, has also been discussed in certain circles as well. At the moment, the Norse are sitting in the way station of Division I, the Atlantic Sun Conference, and is in the third year of their transition from Division II. However, since NKU won’t be a full D1 school until July 2016, the Horizon League may hold off until then. Once they clear that hurdle, the Norse have the facilities and access to the Cincinnati media market the conference has been looking for.

Murray State was also mentioned as a potential addition. The Racers could be looking for a competition upgrade from the Ohio Valley Conference the same as Belmont may be. Their omission from the post-season during the 2012-13 season despite 21 wins and making it to the OVC tournament finals.

Of the four teams mentioned by Parry, perhaps the inclusion of Lipscomb was the biggest head-scratcher. The Bisons have not had the type of success that either Belmont or Murray State has, nor have they set the world on fire in the Atlantic Sun. The only explanation would be to find a travel partner from the cross-town Bruins, should they be invited to the Horizon League.

Expansion couldn’t happen fast enough in the eyes of both fans and conference schools alike. The departures of both Butler and, most recent, Loyola-Chicago left scheduling gaps that usually ended up becoming meaningless non-Division I contests.

What Cleveland State Can Be Thankful For

Thanksgiving has arrived, and for the people at Cleveland State, there’s plenty for them to be thankful for.

John Parry can be thankful for – People who will give money. Thanks to the $1.4 million donation from long-time university partner Medical Mutual to renovate the tennis facilities, Parry basically has concrete reason to stay as athletic director for the remainder of his contract. Now, about those video scoreboards…

Gary Waters can be thankful for – Having Trey Lewis, who has been on a scoring tear as of late. However, Waters can’t possibly be happy with the way things have gone to this point. Losing his top scorer in Bryn Forbes and suspending Charlie Lee have pretty much left fans who had lofty expectation wondering if this year’s team is even going to finish .500.

Cleveland State fans can be thankful for – The fact that the Vikings are still a defensive monster. That was really the only reason why CSU was in the Louisville game until the very end until the Cardinals pulled away to win, 45-33. Considering Louisville pasted Savannah State by 63 points in the previous game, holding the Cardinals to just 45 is an accomplishment indeed.

Kate Peterson Abiad can be thankful for – Having a ton of talent back on the women’s basketball team this year. This has allowed her squad to go toe-to-toe with some tough competition on the road, including at Minnesota, where the Vikings had a halftime lead before eventually falling short, and at Florida Atlantic, where they dominated the Owls in the win.

Anton Grady can be thankful for – Being completely healthy again. That said, he’d probably be more thankful if referees would stop calling him for fouls early, which has led to him sitting for long stretches during the Iona, Savannah State and Louisville losses.

Lee can be thankful for – The idea his teammates needing him during his six-game suspension.  The loss at Iona and the shocker at Savannah State makes everyone wonder if the situation would have been different if Lee had been in the lineup.

Terrelle Hales can be thankful for – Lee’s suspension. Prior to the season, Waters had contemplated making Hales red-shirt this season. But, with Lee being suspended, Waters didn’t want to end up in the same situation he was in during Marlin Mason’s freshman year. And the decision to play Hales has already paid off, with seven rebounds in extended minutes against Jacksonville State.

Kaza Keane can be thankful for – The NCAA, who saw its way to give Keane a hardship waiver that allows him to play this season. And, thanks to Lee’s suspension, he’s become a starter and been a big part of the team on the floor. Plus, making SportsCenter’s Top 10 plays is a nice thing to see, too.

The Wolstein Center can be thankful for – The Viking Village. The new program to get students to come to Cleveland State sporting events has already netted results with the appearance of a section that is actually populated students, which has been a rarity in years past.

Cleveland State can be thankful for – MTAF: Cleveland, the Cleveland Leader, Waiting for Next Year and Tom Mieskoski. Since the Plain Dealer and the Northeast Ohio Media Group has clearly decided CSU isn’t a coverage priority, fans have had to turn to other media sources, hence the four mentioned places.

Cleveland State Weekly Recap: Eating Cupcakes

After losing on the road at Iona, Cleveland State came home to face two opponents that, quite frankly, weren’t exactly the toughest on the planet. To nobody’s surprise, the Vikings came out victorious in both contests this week.

Of course, both Monday’s game against Division II Tiffin and Wednesday’s tilt against Jacksonville State were swallowed whole the big wine and gold machine that is the Cleveland Cavaliers. Honestly, did anyone outside of diehard Cleveland State fans know there was even a game going on this week, let alone two?

That too bad, really, because Northeast Ohio missed a few interesting things that came out of the Wolstein Center.

Grady’s Bounceback (And Scare)

Junior forward Anton Grady, by all accounts, had a pretty bad night against Iona. Sure, he pulled down nine rebounds, but he went 2 for 9 from the floor against the Gaels, and spent most of the first half on the bench with foul trouble.

At home against Tiffin, however, Grady dominated throughout. In fact, he ended up scoring a career-high 26 points in the 85-56 romp over the Dragons. He shot 9-for-13 from the field, including a number of mid-range jumpers that have become a part of his arsenal as of late.

Against Jacksonville State, however, he had to leave the game with 12:24 left in the game after falling awkwardly. Of course, that was greeted with a collective gasp from the Viking fan base. Thankfully, the fall looked worse than it actually was, returning to the game seven minutes later, finishing with 12 points and four boards.

Welcome to Cleveland State, Kaza Keane

The transfer guard from Illinois State didn’t have the greatest game in the world against the Dragons on Monday, going 0-for-8 from the field. Keane fared a little better against the Gamecocks, making three of of his five shots.

Of course, it’s the shot that closed out the first half that generated the most buzz.

Keane took the inbound pass in the final seconds of the half and heaved it towards the basket from 70 feet away. Usually, that doesn’t go in. But in this case, it hit nothing but the bottom of the net. The long shot not only marked an exciting point in an otherwise pedestrian 60-46 Cleveland State win against Jacksonville State, but it ranked No. 9 on ESPN SportCenter’s Top 10 plays.

No Red-shirt for Terrell Hales and Tim Hasbargen After All

There had been some speculation that freshmen Hales and walk-on Hasbargen would be sitting out the season as red-shirts. However, with the suspension of senior guard Charlie Lee, and some displays of athleticism from both, head coach Gary Waters opted to have both players active this season.

For the German Hasbargen, he played 13 minutes of the win against Tiffin, playing significant minutes while Marlin Mason sat with foul trouble. While the stats show that he only had one rebound and didn’t score, he made his defensive presence known while he was on the floor.

Hales, on the other hand, made a much more significant contribution on Wednesday against the Gamecocks. In 18 minutes, he notched seven rebounds, with six of them on the offensive glass, as well as three steals and two assists. His performance evoked memories of another defensive powerhouse, D’Aundray Brown.

Now that it’s clear that both Hasbargen and Hales will be on the bench for the remainder of the season, Waters can now look to expand his rotation if he needs to, lessening the concern of depth in the backcourt, which many have had with the departure of Bryn Forbes and Sebastian Douglas.

On the other hand, Waters now has the dilemma of who to play. With Keane, Trey Lewis and Andre Yates starting, and with Lee returning for the pivotal December home match-up against Toledo, Waters could realistically go very deep on the bench, with Hasbargen, Hales, Derek Sloan and Kenny Carpenter. Minutes will be at a premium, and clearly all seven guards will have to prove they deserve the playing time.

This One’s on You, Global Sports Showcase Organizers

As mentioned, both Cleveland State home games were met with relatively little fanfare around the city, undoubtedly because of the fact that the Cavaliers being home both nights. The Wednesday game against the Gamecocks, which was essentially the college basketball version of Where’s Waldo, had no chance of getting any attention when the Cavs were going up against the defending NBA champion San Antonio Spurs.

But this scheduling conflict can’t be put on CSU, really, though others, like the Tiffin game that competed and lost badly to Cavs-Nuggets, certainly could be. No, Wednesday’s game can only be put on the organizers of the Global Sports Showcase.

Fans can understand that these games are a means to an end, which, in the case, is a game against a highly-ranked Louisville squad, as well as another tough contest against Marshall. At the same time, could one of the organizers at least said something after the Cavs schedule came out? Even Cleveland State’s Campus Activities Board scheduled a Cavs viewing party during the CSU-Jacksonville State game. That’s how bad a timing it was.

In the future, organizers of these exempt tournaments, please understand that you’re working with an institutions whose Board of Trustees is pulling its hair out because the Wolstein Center keeps hemorrhaging money. You’re not helping.

And Finally…Making Friends With Johnny Football

On Tuesday, the Vikings got themselves an unexpected visitor in Cleveland Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel. Among those who posted pictures with the first-round draft pick were Lewis as well as the men’s basketball managers, who recently created their own Twitter account a couple of weeks ago.

Needless to say, the managers should get themselves quite a few more Twitter followers now that