YSU basketball coach sees recruits as Horizon League ready

Mention Kyle Steward, Jalon Plummer and Marcus Keene to Youngstown State men’s basketball coach Jerry Slocum and he’ll quickly tell you how they are part of the Penguins scheme to improve on the programs first back-to-back winning seasons in almost 20 years.

“The great thing about these three guys is their ceiling is high,” Slocum said. “They’re good basketball players now, but I think their potential is really, really solid.”

Start with the 6-foot-7, 195-pound forward Detroit native Steward, who averaged 12 points and seven rebounds for a Cass Tech team that went 19-4 last season.

“He’s got a tremendous upside,” Slocum said. “He’s long. He’s athletic. He shoots the ball well from the perimeter. He’s solid around the basket. He’s potentially, in my mind, a really good four man for us in terms of being able to give us some size in that position and block some shots.

“Like I said, he can stretch the defense. He reminds me a lot of Kam (Kamren Belin, 6-7, 225). He has great defensive feet. He has followed the pattern we’ve had over the past four years with really active four men that can work really good ball screens and take perimeter jump shots. He’s a very good, skilled basketball player.”

Then, there’s Plummer, the Bellville, Mich., native who helped Romulus High School to the Michigan Class A state championship. Plummer had some performances where he shot well from 3-point range, but his other attributes intrigued YSU.

“Jaylen is 6-4 (177 pounds) and has really good length,” Slocum said. “He was a defensive stopper on a team that won the state title.”

Keene, 5-9, 165-pound point guard from San Antonio, Texas, averaged 25 points per game for Warren High School.

“The thing I really like about this recruiting class – Jaylen, Kyle and Marcus – is every one of those guys can stretch the floor at the offensive end,” Slocum said. “Every single guy, and I haven’t been able to say this about all of our recruiting classes, every single guy has great defensive feet.”

As for Plummer and Steward, former Cass Tech standout and YSU assistant coach Steve Hall recruited both players. Hall, a former all-Michigan player in the late 1980s, played for the University of Washington and Virginia Tech. He also played international basketball prior to his coaching career.

“He’s been able to get us inroads into Detroit that we’ve never been able to have,” Slocum said. “Obviously, the proof is in the fact we have two very good players.”

It’s been a solid recruiting year for YSU.

“All those guys are Horizon League guys,” Slocum said. “They are guys that I think compete right away in our league. I think they’re going to be solid players and help us to where we’re going.”

SCHEDULE IN LIMBO: YSU’s schedule for the 2013-14 season is in limbo.

Penguins Assistant Athletic Director Rick Love said YSU has a home game against Bethune-Cookman and a road game at Kent State on the schedule.

Loyola recently left the Horizon League for the Missouri Valley Conference and Butler left for the Atlantic-10 two years ago and is jumping to the Big East.

YSU, Detroit, Cleveland State, Wright State, Valparaiso, UIC, Green Bay and Milwaukee are the current members of the Horizon League. There’s been some rumors that Oakland could be a prospective Horizon League members, but nothing so far.

That leaves YSU wondering how its going to fill out their schedule.

“It’s totally up in the air. It’s very discouraging from our perspective,” Slocum said. “We have to get four games yet. We can’t move until we know what the league’s doing. After that, are you going to need two more? Are you going to need four more?

“It’s something we work on every, single day.”