Penguin preview: Men’s basketball

Senior Michael Akuchie shoots from the line.

By Kyle Wills

The Youngstown State University men’s basketball team is looking to make an impact on the court this year following last year’s COVID-19 restricted season.

During the 2020-2021 season, the team had a record of 15-12, 9-11 in the Horizon League. The team had an unbelievable month of February as it would go 7-1 before losing to Oakland University in the quarterfinals.

The team will welcome some new faces this year as seniors Tevin Olson and Collen Gurley and juniors Dwayne Cohill, Owen Long and Chris Shelton have all transferred to YSU. The men will also have some new teammates with four freshmen joining the squad as well.

Last year, Shelton played in and started all 25 games for Hampton University averaging 9.8 points, while shooting 49.2% from the field and 48.6% from 3-point range (67-138). He would lead the NCAA Division I in 3-point percentage.

At Mount Union University, Gurley scored 1,003 points and averaged 14.3 per game in three seasons and would make 183 3-pointers. As a junior, he appeared and started in 12 games for the Raiders averaging 18 points, 4.8 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game. He would score in double figures in 11 of 12 games, including six 20-point performances.

However, these new members will look to make an immediate impact with two big names off YSU’s roster from a season ago. The team will look to fill the voids of senior forward Naz Bohannon and senior guard Darius Quisenberry, who both transferred following the end of last season.

A season ago, Bohannon led the Penguins, averaging 16.5 points per game and over 8 rebounds while shooting an impressive 52.6% from the field. Quisenberry would make his presence known in the second half of the season, following an injury plagued first half, averaging almost 15 points a game, 3.1 assists and shooting 35.6% overall.

There will still be familiar faces around for the Penguins as they return three starters from last season’s squad. Fifth-year seniors Garrett Covington, Michael Akuchie and sophomore Shemar Rathan-Mayes combined to start 74 games in 2020-21. 

Akuchie and Covington have each appeared in 119 games and have scored a combined 1,958 career points. Covington, a three-time Horizon League All-Defensive Team selection, averaged a career-best 12.5 points per game and connected on 49.8% of his field-goal attempts. 

Akuchie, who averaged 9.9 points per game last season, was one of the Horizon League’s top rebounders with an average of 8.3 boards per game. Akuchie also set a Horizon League and YSU Division I single-game record with 24 rebounds against Robert Morris a season ago Feb. 6, 2021.

Sophomore Shemar Rathan-Mayes earned Horizon League All-Freshman Team accolades last season after averaging 10.4 points, 2.0 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game. 

Sophomore Myles Hunter was also strong, starting 12 contests for YSU last year as well. Other returnees include sophomores Alex Vargo, Will Dunn and Daniel Ogoro. Senior forward Jamir Thomas also will return after missing the 2020-21 campaign due to a knee injury.

The YSU men’s basketball team is set to begin its season Nov. 10 at 8:30 p.m. when it travels to Penn State University to do battle with the Nittany Lions. This game can be watched on the Big Ten Network and can be listened to on 570 WKBN AM and the iHeartRadio app.