By Dan Hiner
The Youngstown State University men’s basketball team suffered one disappointment after another during the 2015-16 season.
The team’s best player, senior forward Bobby Hain, suffered a broken hand before the season started, and Hain, eventually, was out for the season following a broken foot.
The Penguins started the season 0-4, but fought back to a 4-4 record. YSU eventually lost eight of its final 10 games, including a 92-79 loss against the University of Detroit Mercy in the first round of the Horizon League tournament.
YSU head coach Jerry Slocum renewed his contract in the offseason and will return for his 12th season with the Penguins.
The Penguins are trying to rebound from last season’s record of 11-21, 6-12 in the Horizon League.
“We’re extremely confident. We have a lot of guys returning,” YSU point guard Francisco Santiago said. “We got Cam [Cameron Morse], who’s one of the best players in the league, and we got one of the top five 3-point shooters in the country [Matt Donlan] coming back. I mean that’s just huge for us. We got a lot of guys that worked in the summer and came back better. Last year we were kinda new to it. Everybody was trying to figure out their roles, we were kinda struggling with that, because we were a young team.”
Junior guard Cameron Morse is returning for his second season as a starter. Morse was named Preseason First-Team All Horizon League on Oct. 6. He averaged 20.3 points per game and was second in the Horizon League in scoring last season, behind only current Cleveland Cavaliers’ guard Kay Felder.
Morse said he needs to be aggressive this season. He said that his ability to score will open up opportunities for his teammates to get shots.
Morse and Santiago said the most important part of the team’s success will be on the defensive end of the court. YSU was last in the Horizon League in scoring defense last season, allowing 83.8 points per game.
“Our defense leads to offense,” Morse said. “We need to continue working on the defensive end, and everything will be fine.”
YSU added four players in the offseason. Junior Rahim Williams joined the Penguins roster after playing two seasons in junior college. Santiago said Williams is going to provide energy and athleticism to the team.
“He’s really a player we really didn’t have in past years,” Santiago said. “He could jump out the gym, he’s very athletic, he runs the floor better than anyone and he’s very good defensively. His length is gonna bother people.”
The Penguins open their season on Nov. 12 against the University of Akron as a part of the second annual Northeast Ohio Coaches vs. Cancer tournament.