YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – A recent trip to a remote camp for two days of basketball, bonfires, camaraderie, and no cell service brought the University’s men’s basketball team together. Youngstown State, which has five transfers and four freshmen.
Coach Jerrod Calhoun insists there is no magic formula to involving newcomers and returning players. The Penguins, who just finished a 15-12, 9-11 season in the Horizon League, start playing Nov. 10 at Penn State. The team will win $ 60,000 through the contest.
“We did a lot of things in the offseason to bring this group together,” Calhoun explains, emphasizing team standards, behavior and the interaction between nearly 20 players.
Michael Akuchie, senior, says this forces him to be a leader and communicate various concepts and training to the field – which he welcomes with “open arms”.
Sophomore Shemar Rathan-Mayes says the newcomers have come from the winning programs and have adapted to the teachings of Calhoun and his team.
“When you take that and our common goal – our goal is the Horizon League Championship – it gets easier,” Rathan-Mayes said.
The women’s team also has nine newcomers this year. Players took to Cedar Point and Grove City Premium Outlets, among other team building exercises, to make newcomers feel welcome.
“It’s kind of building your own culture and your own identity based on what we have and what lies ahead,” said fifth year senior guard Chelsea Olson. “That’s the biggest part.”
Megan Callahan, a transfer graduate from Robert Morris, shot 36.7% on a 3-point range during the 2020-21 season.
His new team, which was 10-8, 9-7 in the Horizon last year, opens the season Nov 9 at Eastern Michigan and travels to Penn State Dec 12 – a contest paying YSU between $ 15,000 and $ 20,000.
“Although I am new and have a lot to learn and will learn every day, I will bring my experience and I will be able to be a leader for girls who are younger and in need. more experience on the team, ”says Callahan.
Supporters in the stands
Horizon League teams played league games in front of no fans last season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Players were required to wear masks when lifting weights and training, but not during matches.
“I hope we are moving further and further away from the masks and that COVID is in the background,” says Barnes. “It would be nice when we go back to the old normal.”
YSU has been on average the second-highest number of Horizon League fans over the past two seasons.
Barnes says the fans have been great. “They are loud,” he said. “They are getting down to it and it really helps our team. Honestly, it helps us win games.
On the lists
The transfer of YSU men’s basketball graduates Greyson Kelley and fifth-year seniors Akuchie, Garrett Covington and Jamir Thomas are back, the result of the pandemic and the NCAA giving all athletes another year of eligibility for the 2021-22 season.
“At the end of the day, you want guys who want to wear red and white,” Calhoun says.
The Penguins have 17 stock players on the roster, as well as a transfer from Mount Union University and Senior Collen Gurley – a non-stock player.
This season, NCAA Division I teams are allowed to have the same number of stock players out of the 13 maximum as their returning senior number.
New freshmen are Jacori Owens, Luke Chicone, Michael Lucarotti and Josh Irwin.
Senior Tevin Olison and juniors Dwayne Cohill, Owen Long and Chris Shelton came to YSU through the transfer portal. The NCAA allows all players – Divisions I through III – a one-time transfer to another school without missing a season.
Images in the gallery include photos of Michael Akuchie guarded by Chris Shelton during practice, Shemar Rathan-Mayes guarded by Will Dunn, and head coach Jerrod Calhoun speaking to part of his squad.
Cohill, a former four-star high school rookie, recovered from a torn anterior cruciate ligament at the University of Dayton.
Long averaged 19.3 points, shot 42.3 percent from 3 points and 88.4 percent from the NCAA Division II Maryville University free throw line. Olison averaged 23 points last season at NAIA University in Cumberlands. Shelton led the NCAA with a 3-point percentage with 48.6 at Hampton University.
Long comes back from a broken left wrist. Calhoun says he works to get back in shape.
“You have to use the portal. But it has to be the right fit, ”Calhoun says. “I think the four guys really match the Penguins. “
YSU graduates Naz Bohannon and Darius Quisenberry transferred to larger programs in Clemson and Fordham, respectively. Bohannon led the team with 16.5 points and added 8.2 rebounds per game, while Quisenberry had 14.9 points per game for a team ending their consecutive season above 0.500.
“They gave their all to this program,” Calhoun says. “I certainly wish these guys the best of luck. But that’s the landscape of college basketball.
The YSU women’s team have lost their top two scorers: graduate Mary Dunn, who went to the University of Pittsburgh, and last season’s Horizon League freshman Nneka Obiazor. Dunn and Obiazor, who is at the University of Nevada in Las Vegas, each averaged over 15 points per game, while Obiazor led the Penguins with 8.1 rebounds per game.
Another YSU graduate, McKenah Peters, who averaged nine points per game, transferred to Nova Southeastern University in Florida.
Barnes says he has mixed feelings about the loss of these players, but is excited about the new players obtained this season.
“We wish the players who haven’t transferred anything good luck unless we play them,” he said. “We are trying to win a championship here. However, we have to do it, whether it’s transfers or high school or a mix, what I think it’s going to be now is what we’re going to try to do.
Kayiona Willis, Athena Hocevar, Haley Thierry and Tenleigh Phillips are the incoming freshmen, while seniors Lindsey Mack (Fairleigh Dickinson), Callahan, Lilly Ritz (Wheeling University), junior Paige Shy (Marshall) and sophomore Lindsey Linard (Duquesne) came to YSU through the transfer portal.
Mack had 41 3-pointers last season, while Ritz led NCAA Division II in rebounding for the past two seasons. Shy recorded 15 3 points in 16 games during the 2020-21 season. Linard came off the bench for the Dukes.
“We see them all playing important minutes,” says Barnes. “It worked for us because I think four of the five we recruited overwhelmingly in high school. We had a relationship with them before – all great kids, good students and good players. “
Expectations throughout the season
The YSU women’s team was selected seventh in the Horizon League preseason poll. Olson, who is a league second-team selection, says that in order to become one of the best in the league, YSU needs to integrate its newcomers and returning players.
“The best thing is we can kind of go there everyday and not play with a lot of pressure on us,” she says.
Second-year guard Malia Magestro, who shot over 50% from a 3-point distance last season, and Olson are the two mainstays as starters. Barnes says it’s wide open from there because it’s the greatest depth he’s had on a team since joining YSU from the 2013-14 season.
Junior forward Jen Wendler, Linard and Ritz should see the game time, along with a host of other guards.
“Whoever plays well at different times can be there. But we have a lot of options, which is good, ”says Barnes.
Besides 3-point shooting, defense has been a staple of this YSU team. Last year’s team kept their opponents at 63.5 points per game. When the Penguins went 22-10 in the 2018-19 season, YSU kept the teams at 57.6 points per game.
“That’s when we had our best years,” says Barnes. “We’re trying to get back to that kind of defense.”
He says fans would be shocked at how strong his team is playing and his tenacity.
“I think if they come once, they’ll come back and be addicted,” Barnes says.
As of October 20, Calhoun said Shemar Rathan-Mayes, Cohill, Covington, Olison and Akuchie were the starting lineup for the team. Rathan-Mayes (10.4 points, 82.4% of the free throw line and 85 assists), Covington (12.5 points) and Akuchie (9.9 points, 8.3 rebounds) are the best offensive players back from the team.
“It’s a team that can make plays for each other, shoot 3s and attack the rim,” Calhoun said.
YSU plays at Penn State (Nov. 10) and West Virginia (Dec. 22), but has six home games, including the J. Arnold Wealth Management Company tournament from Nov. 19-21.
The Penguins’ first home game with Horizon is on January 7, 2022. Last season, the Penguins were out of the Beeghly Center for eight of the first 10 games.
“Our guys know we have to get over some of the scheduling issues that we have in the Horizon League,” Calhoun said.
The men, like the women’s team, were chosen seventh in the league’s preseason poll. No YSU men’s team has competed in the NCAA tournament since it became a Division I team in the early 1980s. The team that wins the Horizon League tournament gets an automatic berth in the National Championships. playoffs.
“We are an uncompromising team,” Akuchie says. “People can say whatever they want on paper. But when it comes to the inside of these walls, we all believe in each other.
Copyright 2021 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.