Youngstown State Penguins 2020-21 Season Preview

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The continuing of something good

As much as things change, they mostly stay the same. For the Youngstown State University men’s basketball program, staying the same roster-wise is something that didn’t happen often in the Jerry Slocum era. It’s starting to happen more often in the Jerrod Calhoun era and that’s important.

For Calhoun and his staff, continuity is the name of the game. It’s a concept that this program needed and is finally getting. The Penguins are looking to build on one of the better seasons in quite some time. There were tons of great moments and incredible games. 

Hopefully, this continuous roster has some more tricks and wins up its sleeve. With newcomers Robert Morris University and the University of Purdue-Fort Wayne, the league gets even stronger for a team looking to make a legitimate run at the Horizon League title.

Newcomers

Greyson Kelley – After an incredible Junior season at Division II Shaw University in North Carolina. The 6-foot-2 guard averaged 19.2 points per game on 47 percent shooting and also shot 43 percent from three. He also hit on 91.8 percent of his free throws. That’s something that is especially important for a team that struggled at times to hit free throws.

Alex Vargo – As a nominee to be a McDonald’s All-American, Vargo scored over 1,600 points at Wheeling Park High School in Wheeling, WV. He averaged 27.8 points and 7.8 rebounds as a senior. He also shot 42 percent from 3-point range. The 6-foot-5, 200-pound guard/forward combo is the exact type YSU looks for now.

Myles Hunter – As a high school player for Carmel Christian in North Carolina, Hunter was a four-year letter winner. He led Carmel Christian to the state title game as a senior averaging 14.5 points on 46 percent shooting. At 6-foot-5 and 180 pounds, Hunter, like Ryan, will need to improve his body to really make an impact at this level.

Shemar Rathan-Mayes – As one of two international players in this recruiting class, Rathan-Mayss comes from the storied Orangeville Prep that produces Jamal Murray, Thon Maker and Lugentz Dort. He led the Bears to an 86-4 record in four seasons as well as two state (provincial) titles.

He averaged 14 points, seven assists, four rebounds as well as three steals in his time. He was also selected in the BioSteel All-Canadian game which is Canada’s version of the McDonald’s All-American game. At just 5-foot-11 and 165 pounds, it may take time to adjust to Division I Basketball but his pedigree may overcome that.

Cheick Traore – The second of two international guys, Traore originally from Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast). He played his high school ball at Concord First Assembly High School in Concord, NC. The 6-foot-8 forward averaged 8.4 points, 9.5 points and 1.6 blocks.

William Dunn – Another 6-foot-8 forward from Quincy High School in Michigan, Dunn is his high school’s all-time leader in points with 1,727. He averaged 20.6 points per game with 9.2 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 2.7 blocks and a steal. He was also a three-time Associated Press First-Team All-State selection.

Daniel Ogoro and Kenny Ganley, Jr. – Both players are redshirt freshmen but are not new players. They both didn’t see any action last year.

Carson Ryan – A local talent from Struthers High School, Ryan is a 6-foot-6 combo guard/forward. As a preferred walk-on, he’s going to fight for his spot on this. He averaged 15 points, 7.5 rebounds and 3.1 assists in his senior season. He will need bulk up to battle in a tougher Horizon League.

Lineup

Darius Quisenberry – The pistons to the engine of YSU’s success is unequivocally Darius Quisenberry. Quisenberry has been everything and more for the Penguins. The junior guard was electric for a lot of last year.

He averaged 16.6 points, 3.6 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 1.5 steals. He had 10 games of 20+ points including a career-high 41 points against Wright State University. He shot 42 percent on the year but just 31 percent from 3-point range.

Quisenberry tested the NBA draft process over the offseason showing that he’s YSU’s best and will need to be the best again.

Garrett Covington – Easily the wild card of this group, Covington has had an up-and-down time as a Penguin. Despite some strange play at times, Covington is easily the Penguins pound-for-pound best defender by far. He was named to the Horizon League All-Defensive Team for the second consecutive year.

He averaged 8.5 points and four rebounds on 43 percent shooting. He did shoot career-lows in 3-point shooting percentage (24.6) and free throw percentage (63.9).

If Covington can combine all the best parts of himself in his senior season, he could be the difference between some wins and losses for this program.

Michael Akuchie – Another player like Covington that could really make an incredible impact with some minor improvements in play. Akuchie has improved every season under Calhoun but had his beat season last year.

He averaged 9.0 points per game, 6.1 rebounds, 0.9 steals and 0.7 blocks. Those were all career-high’s which show marked improvement. Taking another step in his development could really help this Penguins team this year.

Jamir Thomas – This spot in the lineup could go a couple different ways. If the Penguins are to play this season as a large team on the floor, it may choose Jamir Thomas in some games. Last season, Thomas averaged 3.2 points and 3.1 rebounds on 56 percent shooting. It was in limited time of just under 10 minutes per game so that could change. In a small ball situation, Geoff Hamperian would be the logical choice. Hamperian, like Thomas, isn’t a guy who plays a ton of minutes each game. He doubled his scoring output from 1.2 to 2.4 each game but the Penguins very well could be asking for much more this year.

Naz Bohannon – Another important piece to this lineup is Bohannon. He may just be as important or more important than Quisenberry. An uptick in his production would be an uptick in the entire team’s production.

Last season, he averaged a career-high in points (11.2), a career-high in rebounds (8.6) and shot a career-high 51.7 percent. With those improvements and more to come, he will be another major factor in this upcoming season.

Outlook

The Penguins have a lot to look forward to while having some areas in which it can definitely improve. The losses of seniors Devin Morgan and Donel Cathcart III will be major shoes to fill in terms of production.

No matter, YSU is coming back after a winning season. This program hasn’t done that many times and it’s been a while since it’s had back-to-back winning seasons. This could be the first time since the 2012-13 season for such a feat. When Calhoun came to YSU, he envisioned a program that was dominant in the Horizon League and dominance starts with multiple winning seasons first.

So the outlook could be good for this team that has 20-win potential but it also has 20-loss potential. The hope is that this program takes that next step forward and doesn’t fall back after marked improvement. An 18-15 record is not the end goal for this program at all.

Prediction: 2nd Place

Miss anything from Preview Week(s)? Check it all out below:

Predictions
HoriZone Roundtable Preseason PollPreseason All-League Teams
If we had an All-Newcomer Team…All-Freshman Team Picks

Team Previews
Wright StateRobert MorrisCleveland State
UICOaklandNorthern KentuckyDetroit Mercy
Green BayPurdue Fort WayneMilwaukeeIUPUI

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