Monday, October 27, 2014

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Practice continues as Marquiez Lawrence is defensive player of the day 3 days in a row

By Rob Senderoff
Head Coach

We will be practicing today, Tuesday and Wednesday and then we’ll be off on Thursday. It will be the first time we have gone three straight days.

We gave the guys the weekend off, and we are looking forward to getting three straight days in as we get closer to our first game one month from tomorrow on Nov. 15.

I’ve been really pleased so far by the improvement of a lot of our guys. It is amazing the growth we are seeing in our returning players, especially from the guys who are going from their freshman to their sophomore years. 

At the end of every day, all of our coaches watch the film of practice and vote for the defensive player of the day. We have a board up in the locker room to announce who that person is. We’ve had six practices now, and it had been somebody different each of the first three days. But over the last three days, Marquiez Lawrence has won it three straight times. He is leading our team in deflections, rebounding and rebounding percentage, in terms of how often he is going.

I look back at where Marquiez was a year ago and where he is now, and it really makes me realize how much growth guys make in between that freshman and sophomore year. With also see that with junior college players between their junior and senior years. We saw that with Chris Evans a few years back.

We are very excited about the week ahead. We’ll bring in officials on Wednesday when we do some scrimmaging. We are putting some new things in, so our pace is moving a little quicker. We are putting in our out-of-bounds plays, press break, a new series of offensive plays that is something we have done before but new for this year. There is a lot of work to do layering your offense and defense, trying to improve upon A and B before you get to C, but knowing at some point you have to get to C.

Our seniors have done a nice job in practice and everyone else has followed their lead.  I think we have been getting better on a daily basis. There is still a long way to go, though.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

A different look and a different feel to this 2014-15 team

By Bobby Steinburg
Assistant Coach

The first few practices of the 2014-15 season are in the books for the Flashes and as a staff we have been pleased with the team’s competitive effort and willingness to learn.  

While we now have access to our team during the summer, those workouts are limited to 2 hours per week and are primarily individual skill development.  October is the time where much of the focus is with defensive philosophies and putting in our offense.  That being said, mistakes are expected and it can look chaotic at times.  

For the most part, our guys seem to be picking up the concepts quickly.  One thing I really enjoy about this particular team is that through the learning process, even when they make mistakes, they mess up going 110%.  As coaches, that’s all we can ask of them.

This year’s team has a nice blend of veterans and newcomers.  Returning seniors, Kris Brewer, Derek Jackson, and Dev Manley are taking ownership and have been more vocal with their teammates than in the past.  

Khaliq Spicer has made some huge strides and has put on 12-to-15 pounds since last season.  He is stronger, more confident, and playing more physically.  

Kellon Thomas was out with an injury for the last eight weeks, but you wouldn’t know it judging by the first few days of practice.  He looks like he hasn’t missed a beat!  I love the fact that after spending the first 2 years here with his mouth shut, Kellon has become a vocal leader.  

Two newcomers who were not here this summer, Marvin Jones and Craig Brown, made their presence known right away.  Marvin is a lean 6-foot-10 and an explosive athlete who has shown the ability to knock down shots on the perimeter over the first few practices.  Craig Brown, a 6-5 wing transfer from Rutgers, comes to us with a lot of experience.  It looks as though he is going to really help us by providing that strong rugged wing who can get to the basket and finish through contact – a quality we were missing last season but have had in years past with guys like Chris Evans and Chris Singletary.  

All 15 guys have been competing hard and trying to improve, but those guys above are a few of the names that come to mind after the first weekend. 

It’s early but these guys seem to like each other … on and off the floor.  They respect one another and are pushing each other to get better.  

This year's team has a different look and a different feel about it.  In addition to the obvious upgrades in depth, size, and athleticism, there is a sense of pride and positivity with this group that has been the cornerstone to the great Kent State teams of the past.  We have a lot of work to do before we open up at Youngstown State, but we seem to be headed in the right direction. 

Monday, October 6, 2014

Great effort during first weekend of practice, working on defensive fundamentals and transition offense

By Rob Senderoff
Head Coach

Since the last time I blogged we have had two great practices, one Saturday and one Sunday.

On Saturday, we spent a lot of time working on defensive fundamentals and on our transition offense after made baskets and missed baskets. The thing I liked the most about it was the competitiveness of the practice. Obviously, everyone was excited with that being the first day of practice.

The excitement didn’t let up after Saturday. When we came back on Sunday, we brought in some MAC officials and we worked about 90-percent of our time on our transition game, both offense and defense. Having officials allowed us to clean up some fouls, and it also allowed us to play in more game-like conditions.

We will be off today, but we will come back on Tuesday, watching film in the morning and lifting weights prior to practice. We will spend the rest of this week not only working on defense and transition game, but we’ll be able to break things down more this week because we will finally have the M.A.C. Center set up for practice conditions. With the volleyball game on Saturday we only had two baskets available, so this week we’ll get to do much more breakdown stuff throughout the week.

I have been very pleased so far with the work of a lot of our guys. I thought Kris Brewer did a very nice job this weekend of leading the team. It was also great to have Kellon Thomas back in practice. He looked good and more importantly he felt pain free.

I think some of our new guys are trying to pick up the pace of what we do, but certainly we had some guys show some flashes this weekend. To single out a couple of guys, Jimmy Hall and Marvin Jones showed some nice flashes during the two days.

The guy I’m most proud of now in terms of his development is Khaliq Spicer. He looked like a different player. He is much more confident and much more sure of himself, and he is playing that way.

Khaliq Spicer throws down a dunk during a drill on Saturday as Kent State Men's Basketball opened practice 

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Staple drills in today's first day of practice, then refs come in on Sunday

By Rob Senderoff
Head coach

For a number of reasons this weekend is a really exciting time for college basketball coaches and players.

As opposed to having a Midnight Madness-type day of Oct. 15 being the first day of practice, under new NCAA rules coaches are now allowed to practice 30 days out of 42 prior to their first games. With our first game being Nov. 15 at Youngstown State, that allows us to start practicing today. Some teams were allowed to start practicing on Friday because their first game was Nov. 14, which will be the first day of college basketball this year.

We have really been looking forward to today’s practice. Our kids have been excited. Thursday was our last conditioning day. For our five seniors it was their last conditioning day of their college careers, so I know they were very excited about that. With today’s practice, we are looking forward to getting an even better feel for what is in store for our team. We are especially looking forward to seeing how we build as a group.

We are also very excited to have Kellon Thomas rejoining us. He was cleared to do some things this week, including a workout for the first time all year on Thursday. He should be good to go for at least part of today’s practice. That’s a good step for him coming back from injury. We’ll take our time with him getting back. We plan on having a full practice today. We met as a staff on Friday to go over responsibilities in practice for the year. 

For a coach or a player, this is just the best time of the year. This is my 20th year as a coach and my fourth as a head coach, but you still always get excited about the first day. During our meeting with the team this morning at 11:30 a.m., we will talk about what we will accomplish on the floor from 12 to about 2:30 p.m.

Our focus for the most part on Saturday will be a few of our staple drills. We have a 1-on-1 approach drill that we call block-to-elbow. It’s blue vs. gold trying to get the most stops in a three-minute period. Sometimes there are mismatches with a guard matched up with a forward. Sometimes you have a forward trying to guard a center. It’s a competitive drill and it ramps up the intensity level.

We’ll do that drill daily. If you watch us practice 100 times you will see us do block-to-elbow probably 80 times. 

Another drill that is a staple for us is our O-D-O, meaning offense-defense-offense in three trips. You get to work on transition defense, half-court execution, and sometimes you get to work on special situations.

On Sunday, we will have Mid-American Conference officials in for practice. I think it is important to practice with officials so that you eliminate fouls and you reinforce early on what you can and can’t do defensively.

The officials like to come in, too, because it is their preseason as well and it is good for them to get in those reps.

Again, we can’t wait to get started this weekend and then get into full swing next week.