New Penguin coaching staff putting in plenty of hours

YOUNGSTOWN — Jerrod Calhoun’s door is closed briefly. The Youngstown State men’s basketball coach has his iPhone to his ear, listening to another lead.

YSU assistant Paul Molinari is busy taking in another conversation.

Another Penguins assistant, Jason Slay, has his time occupied as well.

These coaches are more furious than stockbrockers on Wall Street. Their commodities are recruits, they are bringing in assets to this new YSU regime.

It’s hard not to say no to a call, even though it takes away time for planning other important things essential to the Penguins program.

“You never want to defer a phone call because you never know with the highlight tape, a recommendation from another coach,” Calhoun said. “We’re trying to watch every kid possible.”

Calhoun doesn’t like to complicate things. Neither does the rest of the Youngstown State men’s basketball staff. You might say they’re utilizing a basketball version of the KISS principle. When recruiting, it comes down to keep it simple, stupid.

Calhoun wants players who are active on both ends of the floor, good offensively. That means they MUST shoot, pass and catch the ball.

“I think those are the three lost arts in basketball,” Calhoun said. “That’s what I tell my guys when they’re on the recruiting trail. Find me a guy who can do all those three things.”

Defensively, the player must pass another litmus test. Is he active? Can he provide good ball pressure?

“If you’re a guard, you have to be able to pressure the ball because we’re going to press,” Calhoun said. “If you’re a big guy, are you long? Are you active? Do you cover ground? Do you make others better?”

Those are important aspects, but there’s homework to be done as well.

Background checks. That’s very important to Calhoun.

He wants a fit for not only the basketball team, but on the YSU campus. The player must be a student-athlete.

“I feel confident in the kids we have coming in are not only players that fit our system, but they’re high character guys as well,” Calhoun said.

Incidentally, Calhoun said no players have transferred out of YSU since he’s taken over. That means seniors-to-be Francisco Santiago, Rahim Williams, Cameron Morse, Stefan Rosic, Ryan Strollo (walk-on); juniors Latin Davis and Devin Haygood; along with sophomores Jeremiah Ferguson and Braun Hartfield all return.

Five scholarships remain. Teams can have 15 on a roster, which means the Penguins could add another walk-on or two, depending on how many scholarships it gives out for the 2017-18 season.

There’s plenty of turmoil with players leaving programs around the country, including in this area with Akron, YSU, Cleveland State and Duquesne all getting new coaches.

“What you’re seeing is so many kids are transferring out, some are picking the wrong level,” Calhoun said. “There’s no doubt about it. Some kids are caught up at playing at the highest level.

“Some kids are good players for some systems. They may not fit another system. Probably the best thing we’ve done as a staff is identify kids that will thrive in our system, what our system is. That is the key in recruiting.”

YSU has plenty of options with its five scholarships.

“I think we’re kind of in a unique situation,” Calhoun said. “We have an opportunity to bring in some really great high school players. If you look at our roster, we have to get in good, young kids in our program. That’s the key in any program. We also have the capabilities of sitting out a guy or two as a transfer. You take a guy and sit him. He may have one year. He may have two years. He may have three years. So we can look at that. The grad transfer. We’re exploring those options, too. What you’re seeing is if a guy averaged seven to eight points a game in a mid-major, they’re now being recruited by a high major.”

These coaches are working furiously for the next month, trying to get recruits. The late signing period ends May 17.

They’re staying up until two in the morning and getting up at 7 a.m. It’s like they’re cramming for finals. They’re all staying on campus, watching plenty of recruits tapes.

“We aren’t sleeping right now. We’re staying over at the college dorms,” Slay said. “We feel like we’re college kids again.”

These coaches have only two hours a week to work with the current players, so time is essential.

“You can’t get everything done in a day. You have to cross stuff off your list,” Calhoun said.