YSU looks for active student section

ROCHESTER, Mich. — Youngstown State, wearing its road red uniforms, began shooting baskets and running simple drills on both sides of the dark, wooden court with an embossed Golden Grizzlies logo hovering at midcourt.

People started to enter the 4,000-seat O’rena, settling into the floor seats and chairbacks parallel to the floor.

As the hour before game time began to wind down, a group of student dressed in black began to trickle into the bleachers, settling next to the Oakland University pep band.

Some had animal masks, one had a toga — a young man who made a winning putt during halftime game. It was a group in unison, cheering on their Golden Grizzlies men’s basketball team.

It’s one of the best student sections in the country and the Youngstown State men’s program experienced last week.

“That’s what we’re trying to build in Youngstown,” said YSU men’s basketball coach Jerrod Calhoun, whose team plays tonight at Wright State. “We’ve got to have student involvement. Hopefully, second semester, our students will crank it up. Our fan base has been awesome.

“(Wednesday), I thought their student section did a great job. They fed off that energy.”

The Penguins need to find their own energy on this road trip, but an opposing coach said he’s seeing positives in this team.

YSU (5-13, 3-2 Horizon League) has lost its last two games, but the game on Wednesday gave Oakland veteran coach Greg Kampe a glimpse of a Penguins team headed in the right direction.

He said Calhoun inherited some good players in Cameron Morse and Braun Hartfield, who were recruited by retired coach Jerry Slocum and his staff.

“If he can add that level of player to what he’s got, then he can get it going in the right direction,” Kampe said.

The Penguins have been shooting the ball well from 3-point range these past two games, going 12 of 18 in the Oakland loss.

“If they can shoot the ball like that, they’re going to have a very successful year,” he said. “I thought they ran good stuff.”

That said, YSU was outrebounded at Oakland and Detroit –giving both teams opportunities against the Penguins’ interior, which needs to tighten up through recruiting the next year or so.

That’s one of YSU’s priority in recruiting, a rim protector.

“He’s got to get some more bodies inside to make it tougher defensively for teams,” Kampe said.

Oakland has made things tougher on visiting teams. The Grizz Gang, as the vibrant student section calls itself, is a staple at every game.

“It’s not just the best in the league, it’s one of the best in the country,” Kampe said. “They’re phenomenal.”