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."

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