Perdue’s return offers favorable start to Vikings’ offseason

Photo: Cleveland State Athletics

If every day of Cleveland State’s offseason is as productive as the first, the Vikings may go undefeated next year.

On Friday afternoon, roughly 18 hours after CSU’s 2023-24 campaign concluded with a WBIT loss at Toledo, star guard Mickayla Perdue announced her return for a fifth college season and a second in Northeast Ohio.

Perdue needs little introduction to anyone around the Horizon League at this point, but for the sake of covering the broad strokes, the former UT and Glenville State player transferred to Cleveland State last summer and wound up emerging as one of the league’s top talents. Her 17.3 points per game – most of them on three-pointers or defense-to-offense transition buckets – led the Vikings, while her 18.7 tallies in HL games were second across the conference.

The Springfield, Ohio native also developed an impressive list of signature performances, driven largely by the deep ball. Her 7-for-8 line from three was instrumental to CSU’s win over Green Bay on February 3rd, a victory that made the Vikings’ first-ever regular season HL title possible, and she poured in a career-high 31 points against her former Rockets teammates on Thursday in the WBIT defeat.

Appropriately enough, Perdue generated an impressive postseason awards haul, including the Horizon League’s Newcomer of the Year honor, as well as first team all-conference and all-tournament nods.

The modern landscape of college basketball has produced something of a 1-2 punch delivered to teams at the end of their seasons. For nearly every squad nationwide, the year concludes with an often-crushing loss, either in a conference tournament or during postseason action. Then, before anyone involved even has a chance to watch the unwanted film, players consider entering the transfer portal, which formally opens on the Monday following Selection Sunday (a compressed timeline that’s drawn a healthy amount of criticism around the sport). For all involved with a team, the immediate aftermath of that final game has become a scramble to figure out something that was fairly easy to determine in the recent past: who, exactly, is going to be on the roster in the fall.

Cleveland State is no exception to those realities, but Chris Kielsmeier already has more certainty than most at this early stage. Not only will he have Perdue available for another go-around, but 2022-23 Horizon League Player of the Year Destiny Leo revealed to The News-Herald last month that she plans to play two more seasons with the Vikings, once she is recovered from the ACL tear that derailed her fourth year in green and white.

“You can’t get rid of me that easily,” she said. “My goal is to play basketball as long as I can, whether it’s college or overseas or whatever it is. I love playing basketball, so ever since it happened my main goal was to be able to be back out there and to be myself next year like I was before.”

Perdue and Leo are massive pieces as Kielsmeier attempts to build the continuity that he frequently lamented not having during the 2023-24 schedule, though there are still plenty of other questions that have yet to be answered. CSU honored seven of its 13 rostered players on Senior Day in February, though that ceremony has lost most of its predictive value in recent years, particularly given that most of the seven (a group that, incidentally, included Leo) have remaining eligibility.

Regardless, it’s common for graduating players to move on in pursuit of the perfect blend of an advanced degree and basketball, while others may simply want to search for a different playing opportunity. Incoming freshmen Sarah Hurley and Brenae Jones-Grant will fill two spots next year, and the Vikings have certainly been unafraid of using the portal as needed; recent HL award winners like Amele Ngwafang, Carmen Villalobos, Colbi Maples, Brittni Moore and, of course, Perdue all started their collegiate careers elsewhere.

Alongside all of that, Kielsmeier will have to replace at least one position on his staff, thanks to Melissa Jackson becoming Youngstown State’s new head coach earlier this month.

However any of those issues are resolved, the next few months promise to be almost as interesting as the last few.

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