Hopefully this year’s Youngstown State men’s basketball program has things the program didn’t have under Jerry Slocum. This year’s program is going to need a fiber cloth, possibly a towel, and a good ladder because all the old record books are going to need to be brought off their shelves and dusted off.
Under the direction of Jerrod Calhoun, the Penguins are breaking records with every win that it gets and it doesn’t look like that will slow down in the last two games of the regular season.
There’s many records that a decade ago, this program could have never and would have never reached. There are many folks that deserve credit for this and in this article, I will do my best to do so.
With two games left on the road against Robert Morris on 2/21 and IUPUI on 2/25, two teams YSU has handled already, it’s time to talk about the season and what it has meant.
It goes without question, that the players deserve the bulk of praise mostly on the fact that they play the games and no one else.
So many people, including myself, questioned how this team could find success after losing both Naz Bohannon to Clemson and Darius Quisenberry to Fordham. When a program loses two players with that kind of ability, it’s natural to think that it would be hard to find a rhythm with a whole new squad of leaders. That could not have been further from the truth.
First and foremost, Dwayne Cohill deserves the highest level of credit. After two seasons at the University of Dayton where he played only off the bench, he lost his junior season to a season-ending injury. He decided to transfer to YSU which turned out to be just the reset he needed.
After being a third-team Horizon League selection, Cohill has elevated his game to an extra level and with that, so has this Penguins basketball team.
Last year, he averaged 14.9 points per game, 4.2 rebounds, 2.6 assists, and 1.0 steals per game. He shot 45.5 percent from the field while hitting 41 percent from three and 83.5 percent from the free throw line.
This season, he is averaging 18.1 points per game, 3.6 rebounds, 4.7 assists, and 1.43 steals. He has done all that while also improving his shooting as well. He is shooting 52.4 percent overall and 47.4 percent from three. He also is hitting 88.1 percent from the free throw line. The improvement in efficiency has been outstanding.
No one will sit here and pretend that Garrett Covington is the sole reason that the Penguins are having success but I am putting him right behind Cohill in this season’s success. I’m doing that frankly to properly give this man his flowers.
Covington, to most eyes, will go down as just a guy that stayed but he’s much more than that and anyone that knows Penguins basketball knows what he has meant for his last five years in Youngstown.
As someone that already got his degree but had a year of eligibility after his season-ending injury last year, he easily could’ve just moved on or started his career. He didn’t and that goes to show incredible selflessness. I’ll say that I sure am glad that he stuck around to be able to enjoy part of what he started at YSU.
Covington will now get to play in situations that were coming closer and closer with each year as this program continued to build. He has done more than anyone for this program in the Calhoun era.
Covington will soon leave this program, hopefully on a high note, as a 1,000-point scorer and one of the best defenders in school history. He will at worst be the eighth-best scorer by total points in school history. He is second only to Michael Akuchie in games played with 145. Akuchie played in 153. It is definitely possible he becomes the all-time games played leader in school history. He will be one of two to play over 140 games and only one of five to start in over 100 games in school history.
You may not see his name scattered all over the record book in time but his legacy will live much longer. He was one of Calhoun’s first big recruits. He also established what it looked like to play every day and to play hard every day as well. This year’s team exemplifies that in spades.
Both Adrian Nelson and Malek Green were the exact thing this team needed to replace Bohannon.
Nelson’s one and only season in Youngstown will be memorable. After four years of whooping YSU’s ass at Northern Kentucky, Nelson transferred as a graduate student with an extra year available.
He is averaging a near double-double as the Penguins one-two punch in the paint.
Nelson is averaging 13.1 points per game with 9.8 rebounds. He is averaging 1.38 blocks per game as well.
He has already eclipsed 1,000 career rebounds and recently went over the 1,000-point mark for his career. Having both certainly looks good in a great five-year college career.
He has done everything anyone could ask as a guy that will only play one season in red and white.
Green’s one year in red and white will also be very memorable. After two seasons with Morehead State and two seasons with Canisius, Green still had his extra year to use and he used his in Youngstown.
Green is averaging 13.7 points per game, and 7.1 rebounds all while hitting 52.8 percent of his shots.
Green, just like Nelson, has been instrumental in shutting down the middle as best as possible. They both have also been huge in the one area that YSU has prided itself this year which is the fast break. Both have recipients of fast break slams off alley-oops and off beautiful dimes.
Last but certainly not least has been the backcourt tandem of Bryce McBride and Brandon Rush.
Rush, a senior guard, came over from Fairleigh Dickinson after three seasons. He is averaging 14.1 points on 48.6 percent shooting and 38.2 percent three-point shooting. He also is averaging 1.14 steals per game. He is hitting over two threes per game in an offense that dictates quickness and great shooting. He has helped make this team one of the best scoring teams per possession.
The other half of a dynamic scoring duo is McBride. McBride played his last two seasons at Eastern Michigan before using his extra year with the Penguins. He is averaging 7.5 points per game while hitting 36 percent from three. He also is snagging 1.18 steals and dishing out 3.5 assists per game.
Beyond the six guys mentioned, the rest of this roster has done what has been asked of it. They all get a share of the pie even if it may not be as big as others and that doesn’t seem to bother anyone on this team. It is one of the reasons that this team has succeeded. Everyone knew from the start that this could be special if they bought in and they did.
Many things can happen in the game against Robert Morris. It can clinch at least a share of the first regular-season conference championship in program history. The Penguins would improve to 23-7 overall and 15-4 in Horizon League play. Those would both be records at the Division I ranks. Only the 1963-64 Penguins would have more wins with 24.
The win would also mark Calhoun’s 95th. He would become only the third coach in program history with 95 wins at YSU.
With two games left, the time is now to enjoy all the success because the real season, the postseason will be here soon.