The Kent State men’s basketball team played its annual open Blue and Gold scrimmage Saturday night in front of a crowd.
“It’s good to be out in front of some people,” coach Rob Senderoff said. “Because we play Wednesday, it is important to get that experience under our belt and get some jitters out.”
Nine new faces on the team and the loss of leading scorers Jaylin Walker and Jalen Avery create a drastically different team than last year’s.
Stepping up to replace those players are senior Antonio “Booman” Williams, senior transfer Troy Simmons and freshman Giovanni Santiago.
Williams is receiving lots of touches and will be looked to for creating on offense.
“I’m always playing aggressive,” Williams said. “That’s my game. I’m always going to be getting to the basket, getting guys open and getting to my spot.
Gio Santiago is in the guard rotation as well and uses his speed and vision to facilitate the offense.
“(Santiago) is a true point guard in every sense of the word,” Senderoff said. “He has a high basketball IQ and gets guys better, which is an important attribute at the guard position.”
Santiago broke his hand in September but played in the scrimmage with it taped up and said it hasn’t held him back too much.
“I feel pretty comfortable right now,” Santiago said. “Missing a few practices (with the broken hand) I am still getting used to the system, but coach Senderoff and everybody has welcomed me with open arms, so I feel pretty good.”
Santiago is not the only player struggling with injury as seniors Mitch Peterson and CJ Williamson were injured in the preseason, and junior Danny Pippen is still working back from a previous knee injury.
All three players are week to week and Senderoff hopes they can return soon.
The Flashes used more traditional big men like senior forward Phillip Whittington, who dominated on the boards during the Blue and Gold scrimmage.
That ability to plug different types of players into the same position will be something that should feature prominently for the team.
“I do think we have depth,” Senderoff said. “And we do have a lot of versatility. Now it comes down to how we play together, gel as a group and how hard we compete.”
Kent will host Hiram College on Wednesday, Nov. 6 in its home opener.
“Ready or not, here we come,” Senderoff said.
Contact Owen MacMillan