COVID-19 issues have shut down women’s basketball practice, but coach Todd Starkey said he still feels positive about his 2020-2021 team.
“From what I understand, just about every team has had some level of pause with practice at one point or another,” Starkey said Friday morning. “So we’re kind of going through that and just listening to local health authorities and our medical professionals on that stuff. By and large, as a team we’re very healthy.”
Kent State University and the Mid-American Conference require regular COVID-19 testing of players, with the frequency of testing increasing as the season approaches. The Record-Courier reported Thursday afternoon that Kent State women’s basketball had suspended practice due to COVID-19 issues. No further details have been given at this time.
“I think it’s staying positive, staying focused, probably having some more touch points with them on just how they’re doing, mental health stuff,” Starkey said about his message to the team this season. “There’s stressful stuff for everybody. For us as adults and as coaches that are supposed to be able to cope with this stuff, it’s still a stressful thing for everybody on one level or another. So just saying connected makes sure we have a lot of good positive communication with them. I think this is a really tight, cohesive group.”
Kent State women’s basketball has five new players this season and nine returning players. As a whole, the team has more height than it had in the past few seasons, with six players standing six feet or taller.
“We’ve got plenty of size,” Starkey said. “We went from being one of the shorter teams in the league, smaller teams in the league, to being probably the biggest. So that certainly affects the way we play; I think we’re going to look different. Every year we look a little bit different; I think this year could be significantly different. And the way we’re going to try to play, I’m excited about that.”
The team has two freshmen this year: guard Casey Santoro and center Lexi Jackson. They also have two transfer players, including redshirt junior center Linsey Marchese who sat all of last season due to NCAA transfer rules. Starkey expects to see Santoro, Jackson and Marchese in the rotation “sooner rather than later,” adding that Santoro and Jackson have been doing very well and are ahead of where he expected them to be at this point.
Marchese played two seasons at Indiana University, totaling 102 points, 113 rebounds and 16 blocks in 67 games, before transferring to Kent State.
“I think she’s going to have a major impact,” Starkey said, “and in my opinion probably will be one of the better low post players in the league, once she continues to get comfortable with her teammates and gets back into game mode.”
The team is also waiting to hear if transfer center Bexley Wallace will be eligible to play this season due to NCAA transfer rules. Wallace played at Penn State, where she averaged just over a point and a rebound per game. In 2018, she was ranked as the No. 91 prospect overall by Prospect Nation.
“We’re just trying to see if, potentially, with the way things have kind of shaped up with the eligibility situation, whether she’s going to be able to play for us this year or not,” Starkey said. “So three definite newcomers that will have an immediate impact and potentially a fourth.”
The MAC will play a 20-game schedule without divisions this season, with the eight teams with the best records advancing to the MAC tournament in March in Cleveland. There will be no first-round games on campus sites. The MAC women’s coaches picked Kent State to finish sixth in this season’s 12-team league in a preseason poll.
Kent State is set to open up conference play at the University of Toledo Wednesday, Dec. 30. The non-conference schedule has yet to be announced.
Gina Butkovich is a managing editor. Contact her at email@example.com.
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