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By Allen Moff | Staff Writer
Basketball and bonding will be the top priorities when members of the Kent State men's basketball program spend the upcoming week in the Bahamas.
The Golden Flashes will wrap up the last of 10 practices today, then depart for the Bahamas on Sunday at 4 a.m. They will play four games against national teams from the Bahamas during their seven-day tour of the islands, with game one slated for Monday night against the Legend All Stars.
College teams can only take a foreign summer trip once every four years, so obviously third-year head coach Rob Senderoff and his troops are excited about the rare summer journey.
"It's nice that you're allowed to do this, and I think it'll be a great bonding experience for our kids," said Senderoff. "Hopefully it'll be a good time for our guys to have fun when they're not on the court, then hopefully we'll play well when we're on the court. I know our guys are looking forward to it."
A total of 14 players are making the trip, and all but sophomore point guard Kellon Thomas will see action. Thomas is still recovering from off-season knee surgery, and is on pace to return to action by early October.
"I'm going to try to give everyone an opportunity to play and see what they can do," said Senderoff. "I want to win each game, but I also want to see how guys compete and play in a game environment. Of those 13 that can play, six are new to our program -- (sophomore G/F) Devin Carter, (junior G) Derek Jackson, (sophomore guard) K.K. Simmons, (freshman F) Marquiez Lawrence, (freshman G) Jon Fleming and (freshman G) Tyler Scott. It'll be good game experience for them."
Senderoff will be looking at a couple of positions in particular during the Bahamas trip.
"Right now, I only have one point guard that I know of for sure," said Senderoff, referring to returning starter Kris Brewer. "With Kellon being hurt, I'd like to see if I have another guy who can play point on the roster. K.K. Simmons, Fleming and Devin Carter will get some minutes there."
"I'll also be looking at our post players," Senderoff said. "We have all five post players returning. Last year, our post play was a weakness as a whole, and I'm hoping that this year it's a strength. I also want to see who can rebound the basketball for us, 'cause we've lost our best rebounder (Chris Evans)."
Senderoff is also hoping to see improvement from forwards Kahliq Spicer and Chris Ortiz, who each had their moments as freshmen a year ago, but will be asked to play much bigger roles in 2013-14.
"I've seen some jump in practice. More from Khaliq than Chris in terms of consistency, although Chris has had flashes," said Senderoff.
After spending 10 practices butting heads with one another, the players are certainly looking forward to facing some foreign competition.
"Our kids have been (on campus) 10 weeks. They've been here the entire summer taking classes, working out and playing," said Senderoff. "The first six practices on a 1-10 scale were at a 10, but then we were moved to the (M.A.C. Center Annex) and it's just more difficult to practice there than it is in our facility. Guys are starting to get banged up a little bit. I'd say 90 percent of these practices have been defensive-oriented, and I think we're getting better at that end.
"As a group, we've gotten better and now we have to go out there and perform in games."
Facebook: Allen Moff, Record-Courier