Basketball vs. Akron

Kent State junior Danny Pippen [5] shoots the basketball against Akron at James A. Rhodes Arena on Friday, Mar. 6, 2020. Kent State lost 79-76.

Just last week, Kent State’s men’s basketball team began practicing in preparation for their upcoming season.

Five practices in, coach Rob Senderoff is embracing the “new normal” for the Flashes.

“Just a lot of things that make it challenging,” Senderoff said of starting up a season during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Not being allowed to hold summer practices or offseason training regimens change how the Flashes have conditioned for the upcoming season. Having limited access to the locker room and gym have made things different. Dealing with an unfinalized schedule makes for a particularly unusual preseason.

Senderoff said that despite the unique circumstances, he and his team are finding comfort being back in the gym.

“When you’re on the court playing, for those two hours a day, life is as normal as it could be,” he said.

The next roadblock for the Flashes is to find out what their abbreviated schedule will look like. Currently, there is no timetable as to when the schedule will release but Senderoff plans on starting the season on Nov. 25, the first day Mid-American Conference basketball is allowed to be played.

The Flashes returned three seniors to the program this season: Mike Nuga, Danny Pippen and Tervell Beck. 

Pippen was one of the featured scorers for the Flashes last season and Beck cracked the rotation, especially late in the season. 

Nuga was forced to sit out last season after transferring from Portland State, but the guard is expected to be involved this season.

Typically, a team has a summer camp to acclimate the new players to the system and the program. This season that timetable will be rushed due to shortened preparation time. 

As a result, Senderoff and his staff are relying on his seniors to lead the way.

“In college basketball, generally speaking, you go as far as your seniors take you,” Senderoff said.

Pippen is currently sidelined from practice, still recovering from a knee surgery last season, but Senderoff said that he expects Pippen to be healthy for the start of the season. 

Last season Pippen became a crucial piece for the Flashes on both ends of the court, averaging 14.3 points and 1.5 assists per game. 

Off the court, Pippen has remained a vocal leader through his rehabilitation process, Senderoff noted of the first player he has coached for five years. According to Senderoff, Pippen has the tools to become “the face of the program” during his upcoming senior season.

Last season, the Flashes finished with a 20-12 overall record, going 9-9 in MAC play. Kent State’s final game was a win over Eastern Michigan in the first round of the MAC Tournament. 

After that win the Flashes were set to travel to Cleveland to face Ball State, but the morning of the game the tournament was cancelled due to the initial spread of COVID-19 in Ohio.

Even though it will be from behind a mask, Senderoff is grateful for the opportunity to coach this season, especially because of how last year ended. He knows his players, even socially distanced on the bench, are excited to lace up for this season.

“I think it’ll be great for the university, for our students and for those who support Kent State to return to some level of normalcy in cheering on the Flashes,” Senderoff said. “We’re doing everything on our end to try to get our team ready for that point.”

Nicholas Pedone is a sports reporter. Contact him at npedone1@kent.edu.

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Hi, I’m Lauren Sasala, a senior journalism student from Toledo. I’m also the editor in chief of The Kent Stater and KentWired this semester. My staff and I are committed to bringing you the most important news about Kent State and the Kent community. We are full-time students and hard-working journalists. While we get support from the student media fee and earned revenue such as advertising, both of those continue to decline. Your generous gift of any amount will help enhance our student experience as we grow into working professionals. Please go here to donate.

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