Fans invited to attend Penguin practice

YOUNGSTOWN — Shake their hands and look them in the eye.

Some lessons you never forget.

Jerrod Calhoun remembers playing for the late Rollie Massimino at Cleveland State. Calhoun, the former Villa Angela-St. Joseph standout and his CSU teammates, tired from a long practice session, made their way over to those watching the Vikings and thanked them for attending.

Calhoun, the first-year Youngstown State University men’s basketball coach, sees high school coaches from around Ohio and western Pennsylvania attending Penguin practices.

They’ve watched the Penguins work drills and try to learn Calhoun’s up-tempo offensive and defensive styles, trying to implement it into their own systems.

After each practice, the YSU players go over to those in attendance just like Calhoun did at CSU.

“I’ve always been taught that life is about relationships,” Calhoun said. “You’ve got to look people in the eye and talk to them.”

On Saturday, YSU’s team is holding an open practice at the Beeghly Center from 3 to 5 p.m., prior to the 7 p.m. kickoff between the Penguins’ football team and North Dakota State — a top-10 FCS matchup. The YSU women’s soccer team has a game starting at 2 p.m.

The first 100 people to arrive to the practice receive a free YSU men’s basketball T-shirt.

“In this setting we have such a massive football game here that you feel the entire city of Youngstown is going to be here anyway tailgating, having a good time supporting the Penguins in football,” Calhoun said.

He’s hoping people come in for 10, 15 or even 20 minutes to take a look at his team and some of the new faces in the Penguins’ program.

Saturday is just one step to help his team prepare for the season opener Nov. 11 at the University of Akron as the Penguins take on Kent State in the annual Northeast Ohio Coaches vs. Cancer Classic.

“I think anytime you have people in the stands, it’s a good thing,” Calhoun said.