Friday, October 28, 2016

Cleveland State's starting lineup for season opener still undecided, Gary Waters says

Cleveland State coach Gary Waters says there is an open competition with 10 players competing for starting spots. 
With just over 15 day remaining before their 2016-17 season opener, Cleveland State head coach Gary Waters has yet to determine his starting lineup.

"It will probably be at the end of next week before I make that final decision (on the starting five)," Waters said after CSU's Green and White scrimmage on Saturday. "We have about nine guys that can be starters."

The nine in contention for starting spots include Jibri Blount, Jamarcus Hairston, Demonte Flannigan, Rob Edwards, Kenny Carpenter, Gavin Peppers, Kash Thomas, Bobby Word and Anthony Wright.

Derek Sloan has also joined the conversation.

"The one that has really played well is Derek Sloan," Waters said. "He has been added to the process."

Last week, Waters said that Peppers was the "frontrunner" for the starting point guard competition, with Thomas and Carpenter also in the mix.

The starting two guard competition is between Edwards, CSU's leading scorer last year at 12.4 points per game, and Word, an Oral Roberts transfer.

The competition for the small forward/wing includes Wright, Sloan and Carpenter.

And Blount, Flannigan and Hairston are competing for two frontcourt positions.

"We really haven't had starters yet," said Waters. "Each Saturday we have had a scrimmage game and I change (the lineups) around because I want to see what they look like together."

On Saturday, Edwards, Flannigan, Sloan, Carpenter and Thomas played on the white team, while Peppers, Wright, Blount, Word and Hairston were on the green squad.

The starters should be in place for CSU's lone exhibition game of the season on Nov. 7 against Tiffin.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Cleveland State basketball: Gavin Peppers is emerging as the frontrunner to be the Vikings' starting point guard

Gavin Peppers
Although Gary Waters has not yet had an actual starting lineup in practice, a leader has emerged in Cleveland State’s ongoing point guard competition.

Junior college transfer Gavin Peppers has the inside track, with junior Kenny Carpenter and freshmen Kash Thomas also in the mix.

"Right now, Gavin Peppers would be the frontrunner," Waters said at Tuesday's media gathering. "I'm going to split that time up. If we could go 25 and 15 (minutes) that would be good."

Peppers, a transfer from Laramie County Community College in Wyoming, has impressed the coaches in practice with his ability to score the basketball - something the Vikings are desperate in need of after finishing 346th in scoring (out of 351 division I programs) last year, averaging just 60.8 points a game.

"He's a look to score first point guard," Waters said about Peppers, who averaged 18.7 points, 3.8 assists and 2.9 rebounds per game last year for LCCC. "He can score (the basketball) as well as anyone out there."

A Brookeville, Md. native, Peppers had 10, 20-point games last year for LCCC, including two 30-point performances. He's a 37-percent shooter from three-point distance.

Carpenter, who started eight games last year and averaged 6.8 points, has showcased a much improved shot during the first two weeks of practice. His offseason regimen included making 30,000 shots a day.

"Kenny has really stepped up to be a scorer," said Waters. "We had our first (intrasquad) scrimmage and he took 27 shots."

While Peppers and Carpenter look to score first, Thomas is more of a traditional pass first point guard.

Thomas, a Chateauguay, Quebec native, led the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association in assist-to-turnover ratio last year. He averaged 18.4 points and 4.9 assists as a senior.

"The kid I've been really excited about is Kash Thomas," said Waters. "He has done a really good job of running the show. He has instincts that you look for in point guards. He's such a great kid, too."

Green and white scrimmage: CSU basketball fans can get their first look at the 2016-17 Vikings squads on Saturday, with a free public scrimmage at 11 a.m in the Wolstein Center.

Yates update: Former Viking point guard Andre Yates, who briefly attempted to start a pro career overseas, has transferred to Benedictine College, an NAIA school in Kansas.

"Andre made a decision that he wanted to move on," said Waters.

Date change: CSU's men's basketball exhibition game against Tiffin has been moved to Monday, Nov. 7, at 7 p.m.. The contest was originally scheduled to be played Nov. 8.

Tickets now on sale: Single-game tickets for CSU's men's basketball home games are now on sale.

Tickets for games at the Wolstein Center are $10 for the end zone, $15 for seats between the baseline or $20 for center court.

For the two games at the Q, it is $22 for center court, $17 between the baseline and end zone seats are $12.

Tickets can be ordered online at CSUVikings.com,  in-person at the Wolstein Center or Quicken Loans Arena Box Offices or by calling 216-420-2970 or 888-894-9424.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Three questions as Cleveland State basketball team opens practice

Monday marks the unofficial kickoff to college basketball season at Cleveland State.

The men’s basketball team held its first of 27 allotted official preseason practices this afternoon.

"We got a lot of new faces," Vikings head coach Gary Waters said Saturday after CSU's annual alumni game. "The guys that are coming back are excited about moving forward this year and I really feel that we are going to have a pretty good year."

Coming off a 9-23 season, the Vikings have plenty of questions that need to be answered before its Nov. 12 opener against Kent State. Here’s a look at some of the questions the Vikings may be looking at:

1. WHO WILL Score?

A year ago, only five other DI programs scored less points then the Vikings who averaged just 60.8 points a game during the 2015-16 season.

Sophomore guard Rob Edwards (12.4 points a game) and senior forward Demonte Flannigan (11.4) should carry most of the scoring load, but the question remains who will help them out.

"I think we can add another 20 points because we brought in players that can put the ball in the basket," said Waters.

Waters believes Bobby Word, an Oral Roberts transfer who sat out last year, can be the third go to guy. Word impressed in practice last year and could give the Vikings a much needed perimeter threat. The Lancaster, Tx. native averaged 8.4 points for the Golden Eagles as a sophomore and scored double-digits 14 times. He's a 38.4 percent shooter from downtown.

"We have two junior college players that are pretty good players," said Waters. "Jamarcus (Hairston), he was a 16 point scorer and Gavin Peppers averaged 18 points per game."

Peppers is a natural scorer who is expected to compete for the starting point guard spot. The Brookeville, Md. native had 10, 20-point games last year for Laramie (Wy.) County Community College, including two 30-point performances. He's a 37-percent shooter from three-point distance.

Hairston, a versatile forward, can play both the four or five. The Danville, Va. native can also play inside or on the perimeter. He posted 27 double-digit scoring games and 15 double-digit rebounding game last year at Louisburg Junior College in North Carolina.

2. WHO’S THE POINT GUARD?

The Vikings return four starters from last season, but starting point guard Andre Yates decided to give up his final year of eligibility in order to start a pro career overseas. That leaves the Vikings with an open competition for the starting lead guard spot.

"We have about three guys that have the potential to play that position - Gavin Peppers, Kash Thomas and Kenny Carpenter," said Waters.

Carpenter, who started eight games last year, could be the favorite entering the preseason. Waters tends to open practice with two teams - the veterans vs. the newcomers. With Carpenter being the only veteran at the position, he'd likely open practice with the other starters.

Waters is also high on Thomas, a freshmen from Montreal, Canada. He's more a traditional pass first point.

"Kash Thomas will get a chance to play as a freshmen at one of the point guards," said Waters.

3. Can CSU play faster?

The Vikings played at the nation’s 36th-slowest tempo last year, a grind-it-out style that limited offensive possessions. With more length, athleticism and depth this season, CSU is hoping to pick up the pace a bit.

"What I want to do is increase the pace a little bit and get our guys out and going because we're going to have a lot of numbers," said Waters. "I don't want guys to play 40 minutes, I need guys who can play 24 minutes."