Kent State men's basketball team working through point guard injuries

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By Allen Moff | Staff Writer

Kent State football isn't the only program on campus dealing with injuries at the "quarterback" position.

The Golden Flashes men's basketball team has been forced to practice since last week without returning point guards Kris Brewer and Kellon Thomas, who are both recovering from knee surgeries. Brewer was the starting point guard a season ago and is Kent State's top returning scorer, averaging 9.1 points and a team-leading 2.7 assists per game, while Thomas served as his backup.

"When you're down two point guards, the two guys that played all the minutes there last year, you certainly have some challenges with that," said KSU third-year head coach Rob Senderoff. "That's obviously an important position on a basketball team. It's like playing without a quarterback."

Brewer had knee surgery after last season, then was forced to have a second procedure on that same knee just last week.

"Kris had surgery on his knee in April after last season," said Senderoff. "His knee was really bothering him during the last month of last season, and they had to go in and clean it up. He then developed a cyst on his knee. It was causing him a lot of pain on the outside of his knee, so they went in and removed that cyst -- nothing structural, but at the same time, they did have to open him up and remove a growth. That happened last week."

Senderoff is hoping to have Brewer back at practice by the middle of next week.

Meanwhile, Tuesday marked six months since Thomas had knee surgery after suffering his injury early in the off-season.

"Kellon's been in and out (of practice)," said Senderoff. "He's on the road back, but at the same time, not 100 percent yet."

With Brewer and Thomas sidelined, redshirt sophomore K.K. Simmons and freshman Jon Fleming have been running the point for Kent State. Simmons is a transfer from UNC Wilmington who sat out last year, while Fleming is a walk-on.

"K.K. has done well. Some days are better than others, but he's certainly working at it and trying to do a good job," said Senderoff. "He's a very good passer and he has a good feel for how to play, so that part is natural for him. The leadership, getting guys to where they're supposed to be, some of those things aren't quite as natural. Those are the areas that he's working on and trying to get better at. But we had an intrasquad scrimmage the other day and he did very well, seven assists and one turnover."

Consistency has been an issue with the team as a whole, which shouldn't be surprising since the roster includes five prized newcomers that are working their way into the mix.

"It's been one of those deals where consistency is probably the biggest issue," said Senderoff. "I could tell you who our top four players are very easily, but from five to 12 on one day somebody could be five and on the very next day they could be 12. That could be a good thing in terms of having depth, but at the same time it's not necessarily a good thing because guys have not separated themselves enough by being consistent.

"At some point, I'm gonna have to settle on who we're going to play, and I need some consistency to be able to do that."

One player who has been rock-solid during camp is Mark Henniger, a 6-foot-9 senior forward from Massillon Jackson High School who is the Flashes' top returning rebounder (3.6 boards per game in 2012-13).

"Mark Henniger has been incredibly consistent and has played very, very well for us," said Senderoff.

Henniger is one of five forwards that return this season. Here's what Senderoff had to say about the others:

On 6-5 senior Darren Goodson, a returning starter who averaged 8.4 points and 3.8 rebounds per game last year: "Darren has played very well on the offensive end. He can't guard a shadow, and that's an issue, but on the offensive end he's been great."

On forwards Melvin Tabb (6-9 Sr.), Chris Ortiz (6-8 So.) and Khaliq Spicer (6-9 So.), who each saw spotty action as first-year members of the program last season: "I feel as though Mel, Chris and Khaliq have all gotten better in terms of consistency of effort. I think the group as a whole is better, but I still need to see them do it against somebody else before I'm sold."

The Flashes also added 6-8 freshman forward Marquiez Lawrence.

"Marquiez has added energy. He hasn't been consistent, but I don't expect consistency out of (a freshman)," said Senderoff.

Kent State (21-14 last season) will play a pair of closed scrimmages in the coming weeks against St. Bonaventure and Robert Morris before opening the season at home on Nov. 8 against Division III Ohio Northern.

Email: amoff@recordpub.com

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