Penguins lose just two seniors
YOUNGSTOWN — Players, coaches, managers and administration, Jerrod Calhoun appreciates the support he has received after his third year as Youngstown State University’s men’s basketball coach abruptly ended in Chicago on March 5 — a Horizon League quarterfinal loss against UIC.
The Penguins thought they would be continuing their season in the CollegeInsider.com Tournament for the second time in school history, hosting a game for the Youngstown fan base at the Beeghly Center.
But actions taken by the NCAA in an effort to stop the spread of the coronavirus ended the season for good. That doesn’t take away from YSU’s 18-15 record, the best the Penguins have had since the 2012-13 campaign — the same year YSU previously made the CIT.
“We’re away from our players, but we’re in touch with them. I feel really good about the roster,” Calhoun said.
The Penguins have won eight, 12 and 18 games each year since Calhoun took over the program in late March of 2017.
“It’s been a lot of hard work throughout the three years, moving this program in a great direction heading into Year 4,” Calhoun said. “I’m really proud about the growth of everybody. I think the community support has been unbelievable. I think the fan support for men’s basketball has been at an all-time high. I think we really saw that in the last month and a half. The crowds were tremendous.
“I think our players fed off of that. We impacted a lot of people. I think that’s what sports does. It kind of brings everybody together. I think that’s what we’re all going through right now.”
Returning scholarship players for next season include current juniors Garrett Covington, Naz Bohannon, Christian Bentley, Jamir Thomas and Michael Akuchie; sophomores Tyler Foster, Jelani Simmons, Darius Quisenberry and Olamide Pedersen; and freshman Daniel Ogoro (redshirted). Freshmen Kenny Ganley Jr. and Mohamed Konate, and sophomores Justin Bofenkamp and Geoff Hamperian are non-scholarship players scheduled to return.
Quisenberry was the team’s leading scorer and a first-team all-Horizon League player with a scoring average of 16.6 points per game. He shot 79.2 percent from the foul line.
Bohannon averaged 11.2 points and 8.6 rebounds per game. He had 133 offensive rebounds and 151 defensive rebounds.
Akuchie averaged nine points and 6.1 rebounds per game, while Covington, who made the Horizon League defensive team for the second straight season, averaged 16.5 points in two of his last three games.
“We have a whole roster coming back, guys that have been in our program for quite some time,” Calhoun said. “We’re at a little different stage than most. We’re in pretty good shape as far as recruiting.”
Three players come into the program next year — William Dunn (6-foot-8 forward from Quincy, Mich.), Myles Hunter (6-5 guard from Charlotte, N.C.) and Cheick (pronounced SHAKE) Traore (6-8 forward from Concord, N.C.).
Dunn averaged 20.5 points and 9.2 rebounds, while Hunter averages 14.5 points per game and shoots 46 percent from the floor. Traore averaged 8.4 points, 9.5 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game.
“All of them have a lot of length, size and skill that, the way the game is being played now, you want as many versatile guys as you can get,” Calhoun said.
Mentor High School junior Luke Chicone, a 5-10 guard, made a verbal commitment to YSU. He averaged 19.7 points, 5.6 assists, 4.8 rebounds and 2.3 steals per game for the Cardinals. He had a season-high 39 points in a 76-72 double overtime win over Medina on March 11 in a Division I regional semifinal. He cannot officially sign until mid-November. Calhoun cannot comment on Chicone until he signs with the Penguins.
Calhoun will comment on his two outgoing seniors — Donel Cathcart III and Devin Morgan. Cathcart averaged 7.1 points, while Morgan averaged 6.1 points per game. Cathcart scored in double figures seven times this past season with a high of 21 in a loss at Wright State. Morgan scored in double figures five times and had a high of 26 points in an overtime win against Green Bay in Youngstown.
“Both of them were really good players,” Calhoun said. “They could really shoot the basketball. Both of them could really score.
“I always say the biggest recruits you have are the guys you have coming back. Those guys have been in the program. You certainly have to take more shots, continue to improve their game offensively. I think we have tons of guys that are capable of stepping up. Guys have always done that over the three years.”
Quisenberry has had his share of game-winning shots for the Penguins, along with 3-pointers, drives to the basket and mid-range jumpers. Morgan took a lot of those shots last season.
Who can give relief to the YSU sophomore phenom guard next season when he is a junior?
Calhoun said Covington’s potential is really high, as well as Simmons.
“Those are the points and baskets you’re going to try to replace. I think those two kids, Jelani and Garrett, could do it,” Calhoun said.