By Christina Sainovich
Youngstown State University’s men’s basketball team is gearing up for the fall season. After an up-and-down 2018-2019 campaign, the Penguins have something to prove in the Horizon League.
The team finished 12-20 overall and 8-10 in conference play. An exciting six-game win streak, lasting from Jan. 31 until it was broken on Feb. 21, drew a large crowd to the Beeghly Center.
Sophomore point guard Darius Quisenberry was the leading scorer throughout the season, averaging 13.8 points per game. He quickly became a young leader on the team. Recently, he was named to the preseason All-Horizon League Second-Team list.
“It’s a great honor but I’m not satisfied. I’d rather have first team. I think for our team it’s good to finally get recognized, but like I said, I’m not satisfied,” Quisenberry said.
The team was voted to finish sixth in the conference preseason coaches poll, and that is not sitting well in the locker room.
Junior guard Garrett Covington said the rankings are in the back of their minds, but it does not make a difference to the team.
“We’re pretty much the underdogs every year, so going into the year, we’re not really worried about rankings, but it definitely gives us a little more motivation,” Covington said.
Eight players will return from last season, when the team finished in sixth place. Penguins coach Jerrod Calhoun is impressed with the group as a whole.
“I would say collectively this whole group has gotten better. They really have, every single guy. We’ve got eight returnees all coming back that have played a big part in our program, and each one of those guys has been really good,” Calhoun said.
There are also a few incoming players who will see key playing time this season. Christian Bentley, Tyler Foster and Jamir Thomas stood out in practice and scrimmages.
Quisenberry said the newcomers are fitting in well and will have a huge impact on the season.
“I think everybody is doing well, adapting to the team well. I think everybody is gelling well and coming into the culture,” Quisenberry said.
Calhoun said right now they are working on the little things during practice so it will come together on game day.
“What we’ve really worked on as a group is working on the little things, trying to be really good at the little things. Whether that’s a defensive rebound, whether that’s our communication, pulling for one another. I’ve been telling our guys this, little things will add up to big things,” Calhoun said.
The Penguins are set to host Thiel College on opening night in the Beeghly Center on Nov. 5. Then, they will travel south to face an Atlantic Coast Conference powerhouse: The University of Louisville.
Covington said the team is beyond ready for the opener against Thiel and for what the upcoming season has in store.
“I’m excited. We’ve been preparing for this for a while, so we’re ready to finally get the ball rolling,” Covington said.