Wednesday, February 19, 2014

A Revisionist's Preview of Sophomore Class

By Jay Fiorello
Assistant Director, Athletic Communications

The expanded roles that Kent State's sophomores have seen in recent weeks is not a surprise to me. While many did not know what to expect from them, I had a behind-the-scenes preview of this year's team.

Head coach Rob Senderoff kindly allowed for me to accompany the team on its foreign trip to the Bahamas in August, and I was also present at both of the team's closed pre-season scrimmages. I remember telling Ty Linder that I could see the team winning the MAC East without a single 1st team all-conference selection due to its balance and depth (see the 2007-08 Xavier team).

The team's sophomores really intrigued me. In fact, I spoke to Coach Senderoff and a few of the players back in October for a feature story about how the sophomore class could be the X-factor for Kent State's success this season.

Two of the players I spoke with were point guard Kellon Thomas and forward Chris Ortiz, who both scored a career-high 17 points to lead the Golden Flashes to victory over Central Michigan this past Saturday.

While the story never published, here is some of what Thomas and Ortiz had to say going into the season...

Kellon Thomas 

What do you see as your role on the team this season?

"I think my role has increased a little bit. I need to bring lot of energy, be vocal, make plays for others, and be a big defensive stopper for this team."

You had surgery in the off-season, which prevented from participating in any on-court activities with the team over the summer. What did you work on during that time to become a better player and be ready for the season?

"I was in the weight room a lot. I did some bike trying to get my conditioning back up. And mainly, by sitting out, I was able to see the game more. I saw more plays, where I need to improve and where the team needs to improve. So I just worked on being more vocal and more of a leader. It’s been about a month since I started practicing again. Once I get out there and start playing, I feel good.

Chris Ortiz 

What do you see as your role on the team this season?

"My role on this team this year is to bring a bunch of energy off the bench, rebounding, playing defense, and backing up Darren, helping out when he’s not in the game."

You were in the starting lineup and playing well before injuring your foot last November and never seemed comfortable once you returned. Do you expect to return to that early-season form this year?

"I’m about 10 times more confident than I was last year. I still participated in league play and saw what it took. Playing on that injury gave me a lot of confidence. When I’m 100%, I feel like I can do a lot more with my body now."

How will your experience with the Puerto Rican National Team over the summer help you this season?

"Being around a bunch of pro guys who actually do this for a living, I was able to learn a lot of different perspectives. They helped me learned a lot of different positions defensively. On the pro level, the game is much faster. But now I come back and the college game is a little bit slower. I can see plays before they happen, and that’s going to be my advantage this year with the team."

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