As an appetizer to their regular season slate which is set to begin on November 9 in Provo, Utah, the Cleveland State men’s basketball team faced off with two Division III Ohio schools in exhibition action. The Vikings’ first opponent was Case Western Reserve University out of the University Athletic Association, followed by a tune up against Otterbein out of the Ohio Athletic Conference. Both contests provided Dennis Gates and his team the unique opportunity to compete against neighboring schools without it counting on their overall win/loss record. While the Vikings were victorious in both preseason affairs, both games allowed for Gates and his staff to fine tune various aspects of their group’s performance before traveling to BYU.
As to be expected in preseason basketball, Dennis Gates utilized nearly his entire roster in both exhibition contests. Cleveland State will undoubtedly use their depth to their advantage this year, as Gates has many capable players at his disposal on the bench, including Jayson Woodrich who showcased his shooting prowess versus the Case Western Reserve Spartans. Additionally, Woodrich was the first player off the bench against Otterbein. This is a role that Woodrich could very well shine in, as he can provide the Vikings with instant offense off the bench and is an immediate threat to defenses as a lethal three point shooter. It will be fascinating to see Woodrich’s continued development as he rounds out his overall game.
Another Viking that has looked to take a step in his development is reserve big man Mabor Majak. While Majak’s minutes might be limited due to Cleveland State’s immense depth in the interior, he has shown improved instincts on the floor through two preseason games. Majak was named the team’s highest rated defender for his play versus Case Western. The developing big man will continue to grow his game as he battles with the likes of Deante Johnson, Al Eichelberger, and Anderson Mirambeaux on a daily basis in practice. What Majak lacks in leaping ability he makes up for in height and length; something that could be a useful tool for Dennis Gates in certain situations.
A third member of the team that looked good during the preseason, especially in game two was first year Viking Deshaun Parker. Parker, a transfer from Appalachian State and Huber Heights, Ohio native has become increasingly comfortable running the Vikings’ offense. He gives Dennis Gates another capable ball handler off the bench, and should see time in addition to Yahel Hill in the backcourt. Some early impressions of Parker are that he is a guard who loves to penetrate to the hoop, and his ability to break down opposing defenses will also create open looks for teammates. It will be fascinating to see how Gates navigates his entire group of reserves, guards included. Parker averaged a career high four assists per contest in his sophomore campaign and will look to rekindle some of that magic with the Vikings.
On the injury front, Cleveland State was without senior big man Algevon Eichelberger for both preseason contests as he recovers from a knee injury. His status for the season opener vs. BYU is in question as a result. Additionally, D’Moi Hodge sat out the entirety of the second half in CSU’s exhibition finale, despite remaining with the team on the bench. It is unclear the nature of Hodge’s injury if he has one, but he looked to be in good spirits despite sitting out. The Vikings will tip off the regular season portion of the schedule against a high octane offensive team in Brigham Young University in their gym on November 9th. Tipoff is scheduled for 10pm Eastern.