W. Ross Clites
Your City Sports-Cleveland
Kent, OHIO--Tied at halftime of their Second Round NIT match-up with Illinois, my Kent State Golden Flashes fizzled to a 17-point blow-out loss. They finished the remaining 20 minutes in such a way that I almost want to remove the word “my” in the previous sentence. It was the wrong way six scholarship seniors would have liked to end their careers.
This article is my final opinion of this senior class. I will point to their last three games as the justification for my anger. While Ohio was out beating Georgetown soundly, Kent was squeaking out a win against Tulsa in the First Round of the NIT. It was a game that was played at home against Conference USA's fifth-best team. That is not the type of postseason win that the Kent fan base should be satisfied with.
Kent has severely underachieved in its past two seasons. First, the 20-win season streak ended. Now, the 23-win regular season was wasted with two quick exits in the MAC tournament and NIT respectively. This was a good, but not great, Illinois team. Granted, Assembly Hall is a difficult place to play. However, the NIT has one of the weakest crops it has ever produced. A win may have been out of the question, but showing some effort was not too much to ask for. The performance was embarrassing. This is the second time in three games that I have been disgraced that this level of desire has become acceptable in Kent.
These hard times have all occurred under the watch of Coach Geno Ford. He has one set offense that pulls his best players (the two power forwards) out beyond the three-point line for nothing more than ball screens. The offensive identity is YMCA ball. People have to create their own shots.
This animosity for Ford, who sets his team up to fail, is indirectly passed through this senior class. He cannot take all the blame. These players have disappeared in the postseason. Let us examine the last three games. The first game was in the MAC quarterfinals--a one-and-out performance against Ohio. The second game was actually a win, yet the statistics would never make you believe it.
The last game of their 2010 postseason came last night in the NIT Second Round. They traveled to Champaign, and had the Illini on the ropes in front of a sell-out Assembly Hall crowd. If they had only made free throws in the first half, the Flashes would have gone to the locker room with at least a 5-point lead.
From here, the wheels completely fell off. Forward Anthony Simpson receives a pardon; he has been a steady player all season. He is 6’-8” and has to make outside jump shots to get his points. That is how stagnant the Kent playbook has become; the 4-man is running the floor hitting step-back three pointers. The unfortunate thing is Simpson needed to do this for Kent to win games. No one else seems to be able to knock down a jumper. And if you are not getting the ball in the block--none of the plays designed for you to isolate your size--you would do the same thing.
Brandon Parks and Frank Henry-Ala are also removed from this discussion, but for very different reasons. These two players do not exist to me. They have been no-shows that would not play for any other team in the nation. Including them in statistical analysis of this senior class would skew the data unfairly. They would reflect even less favorable numbers.
That leaves the brunt of my wrath squarely on Chris Singletary, Tyree Evans, and Mike McKee.
Start the slow clap for Chris Singletary. His final game came in his home state. What a way to finish. He was a major contributor for his four years at Kent. I honestly believe as soon as Geno Ford took over, Singletary’s skills digressed. Ford never understood how to motivate him like Jim Christian could. Ford also was intimidated by him. Singletary is a strong man with a strong personality, but could be the most lackadaisical person in college basketball. When his team was down, he loafed and moped. His passes became sloppy and one-handed. A good coach would put his ego in time out for a breather to quell the emotions. Instead, Singletary was a foul waiting to happen. If frustration fouls were a stat, he would have led the MAC this season.
Back to the lack of offensive creativity, Singletary was forced to call for the ball and do things one-on-one. Such an offense had its ups and downs. He was a mismatch for any guard. He was also an offensive foul machine, for he bulldozes his way to the bucket in the most telegraphed straight line, and everyone in the stands knows he is about to do it well before the spin move drive is set in motion.
Singletary leaves Kent with over 1,200 points, 450 rebounds, 300 assists, and 150 steals. High marks, but what speaks to me more is what he could not accomplish. He had a suspension in each season he played under Ford.
His 2010 postseason resume:
22 minutes, 7-16 free throws, 5 personal fouls, 6-13 FGs
32 minutes, 6-11 free throws, 4 personal fouls, 5-10 FGs
23 minutes, 2-7 free throws, 5 personal fouls, 1 technical foul, 3-9 FGs
But he did average 14.6 PPG in those three games, so fans are expected to overlook the shortcomings.
A bigger applause goes to Tyree Evans. This three-point specialist would never play for Jim Christian. Why? Because he never plays any defense. It does not matter how “great” his three-point shot is (or was).
That outside threat did not fair that well down the stretch. Tyree’s 2010 postseason resume:
23 minutes, 0-6 FGs, 0-5 3-PT, 0 points
22 minutes, 4-8 FGs, 2-5 3-PT, 10 points
23 minutes, 1-6 FGs, 0-5 3-PT, 2 points
Similar in pre-season three-point expectations was Mike McKee. He is that prototypical white guard that has only one job on the court--make outside shots. If his three-pointer is not falling, what good is this one-dimensional player? This defined McKee's season in a nutshell. His 2010 postseason resume:
15 minutes, 1-8 FGs, 0-5 3-PT, 2 points
9 minutes, 0-2 FGs, 0-2 3-PT, 0 points
10 minutes, 1-2 FGs, 1-2 3-PT, 3 points
So, to conclude this rant, the spectacular senior trio finished with these glorious numbers in their last three games:
19.8 average minutes on the floor
6.7 points per game average
Total field goals: 21-64 (32.8%)
2 foul-outs, 1 technical foul
Total free throws: 15-34 (44.1%)
Total three-pointers: 4-27 (14.8%)
Thank you seniors, for a memorable postseason run. You went from a high point (a MAC regular-season clinching victory over rival Akron on the road) to a all-to-familiar low point. The season win total (24) is the fourth most in school history, but not enough to keep the head coach off the hot seat. He cannot handle talent and he definitely cannot win the big one. He certainly never motivated this group of upperclassmen to give it everything they had, and that showed again last night.