Council votes on 3 new members

By Allen Moff Record-Courier staff writer Published:

According to an age-old fable, sometimes you have to hit rock bottom before making it to the top. The Kent State men's and women's basketball teams hope to one day provide living proof of that legend's legitimacy. Both squads sunk to surprisingly low depths during the non-conference portion of the 2001-02 campaign, but seem to have righted their respective ships at the perfect time after opening the conference season with a pair of crucial victories last week. Bob Lindsay's women's team hit its low point on Dec. 1, when the Golden Flashes fell to 0-4 and saw their national-best 43-game home winning streak snapped by Rhode Island. But Kent State (6-7, 2-0 MAC) won two of its final three non-league matchups, then opened the MAC season by earning double-digit road wins at Bowling Green and Eastern Michigan. "We overcame a lot of the garbage we had to go through early in the year," said Lindsay, who still has just eight healthy scholarship players available due mostly to a rash of early-season injuries. "Now we're not dealing with a different tragedy every day, and we're gaining confidence. We also didn't have one starter in the lineup from last year in our opener. It just took us a while to get going." Transfer guards Kate Miller and Valerie Zona have slowly blended in with returning letterwinners Jamie Rubis, Christi Shibata and 6-foot-6 sophomore center Andrea Csaszar, who has developed into one of the MAC's top centers just as Lindsay expected. "No one will ever mistake us for the Lakers, because we're not very athletic," said Lindsay. "But we have a strength inside (Csaszar) and a smart group that knows how to grind. We're a better team than we were a month ago, and to me that's all that ever matters. I look at improvement, not wins and losses." Kent State men's basketball backers were looking rather precariously at rookie coach Stan Heath on Dec. 15, when his team slipped to 4-4 after suffering an embarrassing loss at Youngstown State. But the preseason MAC favorite Flashes (9-4, 2-0 MAC) regrouped in impressive fashion by closing the non-conference season with three solid wins, then opened the league slate by routing a highly-touted Ball State team in Kent before handing Marshall a rare home loss last Saturday. "I think people saw we had three great guards returning in Trevor Huffman, Andrew Mitchell and Demetric Shaw, and just assumed we had everybody back. They didn't notice that we had an entirely new front line out there," said Heath. "Our players also had to deal with a new coach, and I think that took some of our veteran guys out of their comfort zone. "There was just an adjustment period that we all had to get through." The transition was perhaps hardest on Huffman, who had to learn a new offense while carrying a bullseye on his back thanks to the starring role he played in last year's NCAA Tournament victory over Indiana. But after struggling at times against non-league opponents Huffman has lit up his first two MAC foes for 53 points, including a game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer against Marshall. "Trevor's playing like one of the best guards in the country, which he is," said Heath. "He's our go-to guy, and everyone knows it. But I think the difference in our team of late is the development of our young guys inside. Nate Gerwig is a freshman and John Edwards is just a sophomore playing really just his second year of organized basketball, and they had lapses in intensity that you expect from young guys early on. But lately they've done a much better job of holding their own, and their confidence is growing." Both Kent State clubs are confident heading into the heart of conference play. Lindsay believes his squad has "as good a chance as any" to win the 2001-02 MAC crown, while Heath has drawn inspiration from the days he spent as an assistant coach at Michigan State. "After we lost to Youngstown State, I told the guys that we lost to Wright State the year we won the national title at Michigan State (1999-2000)," said Heath. "You're always going to have your ups and downs, but it's how you respond to them that determines the type of team you'll be." __ E-mail: amoff@recordpub.net Phone: (330) 678-5460

Want to leave your comments?

Sign in or Register to comment.