By Dan Hiner
Saturday will be an important day for Youngstown State University athletics as it implements its first “3-Point Play” game package. Along with the football game, the men’s basketball team will tip off its season.
As the YSU men’s basketball team prepares for their opening game against Kent State University, Head Coach Jerry Slocum expects senior guard DJ Cole to lead the team this season due to a lack of veteran leadership on the team.
“I don’t really see it as pressure because I put a lot on myself. I know what he wants from me, and I know what I expect from myself,” Cole said. “I take what he gives me and I just try to push myself to the next level.”
Slocum expects junior forward Bobby Hain to become the leading scorer on the team. Hain received Second Team Preseason All-Horizon League honors last month.
“His whole game is better. He shoots the ball better, he’s a little better around the basket, he’s lost a little weight and he’s a little lighter on his feet. He’s got to get tougher,” Slocum said. “You don’t play that position at this level without a level of toughness and grit. I think he has that in him and I don’t think we get that on a nightly or daily basis, and I think that is the next step for him.”
YSU played the Golden Flashes last season and lost the game 83-79. The Penguins got off to a slow start in the first half after trailing 42-30, but were able to close the gap in the second half.
Slocum is aware that the Penguins struggled against Kent State last season. The 2014-2015 Golden Flashes are projected to be one of the best Kent State teams in recent years.
“They’re very good. I believe someone told me from their MAC media day that this is one of their best teams that they’ve had over the last five or six years, or one of the best teams that Rob has had,” Slocum said.
Slocum is concerned about the team’s consistency throughout the offseason. The Penguins have several new players on the roster and have to deal with the loss of one of the top players in the Horizon League — Kendrick Perry.
“We’ve had two really good scrimmages. I don’t know if you ever feel like you are ready for opening night, especially when you have eight new guys. This has been a process for us,” Slocum said. “There have been times when we have looked very, very good and there have been times when we looked challenged, but that’s to be expected when you have so many new guys.”
Cole is looking forward to the game on Saturday. After his performance in the loss last season, he is excited to improve his performance against Kent State.
“Last year this was a game that I got hurt in and I didn’t get to finish the last 15 minutes of the second half,” Cole said. “That leaves a little chip on my shoulder because I felt like I could have been out there helping my team out. They’re a great team and it’s going to be a great game Saturday night.”
Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. on Saturday.