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Oct. 27, 2014

Viking basketball begins prep for season

By Kevin Alquist

The men and women of Cleveland State basketball are ready to embark on another season.
Despite being picked to finish second in the 2014-15 Horizon League Preseason Poll and having an All-Horizon League first team player in Trey Lewis as part of the Cleveland State University men’s basketball team, head coach Gary Waters says the team still needs to gain continuity throughout the season before it focuses on tournament play.

On the women’s side, after a 14-16 finish and an early exit in the Horizon League Tournament last season, women’s head coach Kate Peterson-Abiad said the team is looking forward to getting back on the court and playing a more intense and aggressive style of basketball.

MEN’S BASKETBALL

After a 21-10 finish last season that ended in the semifinals of the Horizon League Tournament with a loss to Wright State University, the Vikings lost guard Bryn Forbes, who lead the team in scoring before transferring to Michigan State during the offseason, and guard Sebastian Douglas to a knee injury.

“We’ve got to find a way to finish it out,” Waters said. “Last year was the first time that group had been at that level playing like that. We got four to five starters back and they should know how to get into games like that and finish them out.”

The loss of Forbes and Douglas leaves leadership roles to returning guards Lewis and guard Charlie Lee, and forwards Anton Grady and Marlin Mason, all of whom are part of the team leadership council that’s been put in place to guide the younger members of the team.

“We have those four starters and after that nobody has played any minutes,” Waters said. “This is a young team and they’ll still have to figure it out.”

Added to the roster for this season are guards Andre Yates, who transferred from Creighton, and Kaza Keane, who previously played two seasons at Illinois State.

With so many roster moves, Waters understands that he has to make adjustments to the team’s style of play. Though he would like to see his team be able to put up strong offensive numbers like they did last season, he sees defense as this line-up’s primary strength.

“This is a good running team and we’ll be a good defensive team this year,” Waters said. “Last year we led the country in 3-point shooting and two [players from that roster] are gone but we can still shoot the basketball.”

The Vikings start their season Friday, Nov. 14 at Iona College, a team that Waters expects to be ranked among the top teams in the NCAA this season.

Waters is looking forward to seeing how well his team plays together in their first game.

“Many of these guys haven’t played together,” Waters said. “Especially on that stage, playing a good team on the road, that will tell us a lot.”

WOMEN’S BASKETBALL

Expectations for this season are high because of the added roster depth and the talent and dedication of senior players forward Imani Gordon and guards Cori Coleman and Kiersten Green.

“We have more depth on our team so we can sustain intensity at a higher level,” Peterson-Abiad said. “In the past, I’ve played seven or eight kids tops. This year we can go 10 or 11 deep. That’s more depth than I’ve ever had and I’m in my 12th year here.”

Peterson-Abiad’s expectation with the team’s depth is that each player will play fewer minutes per game but play at a higher intensity with the time they’re given.

With so many young players on the roster, the responsibility of leadership falls on the shoulders of the senior players, something that Peterson-Abiad sais she is confident in.

“[The seniors] have grown up a lot, they’ve become a lot wiser, they’ve got a much greater understanding of what it takes for a team to be successful and our younger players do respond to them,” Peterson-Abiad said.

Gordon said with such a young team she takes it upon herself to be a leader for her teammates on and off the court.

“On the court, I am constantly talking and helping direct the plays and making sure that everyone is where they need to be in order for our plays to be successful,” Gordon said. “Off the court, I talk to everyone and get to know them and give advice whenever it is needed. I have really taken on a motherly role for the team – they all call me the mom.”

Another reason for optimism is the success of the team’s first-ever Foreign Tour, which took place in Italy in August. More important than the lady Vikings’ 3-0 sweep of the tour was the additional 30 hours of practice that took place in preparation for the tour and the ability for the team to develop in-game situations that would have otherwise waited until preseason exhibition play.

“What it gave me was a chance to see what those kids are capable of and who plays well together and see what we need to work on,” Peterson-Abiad said. “Obviously we’re a little further ahead of where we would have been because we got the 10 practices in prior to leaving and now we’re working on the details of things.”

The Vikings will begin the season on Nov. 14 at the Wolstien Center against the University of Toledo, where they hope to set the tone for the season on their home court.

“This group needs to understand that we are deeper, we will sub, and the intensity level needs to be obviously different than last year,” she said. “If I see our kids playing at a higher intensity level, right out of the jump, I will feel like we’ve set the tone for what this season should be like.”