Almost a year ago, Youngstown State hired Jerrod Calhoun as their head basketball coach. He took over a program which had accumulated a winning percentage of 27.9% (74-191) in Horizon League play since the Penguins’ joined in 2001. Since the turn of the century, YSU has had a winning overall record in just three seasons (2000-01, 2011-12, 2012-13).
This past season, Calhoun’s Penguins finished last in the Horizon League in field goal percentage defense (50.9%), three-point shooting (33.0%), three-point defense (40.2%), and free throw percentage (63.6%) as well as closing out the year in 9th in scoring defense (82.7) and in the standings (6-12).
At the conclusion of his first season, he said good-bye to Cameron Morse – top scorer (15.5 ppg) and facilitator (3.9 apg) as well as Jaylen Benton (6.6 ppg, 2.0 apg, 39.5% 3PT) and Ryan Strollo (1.4 ppg), who all are set to graduate. The departures didn’t stop there as five players decided to transfer – Braun Hartfield (13.7 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 2.6 apg), Devin Haygood (6.7 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 54.6% FG), Jeremiah Ferguson (4.3 ppg), Tyree Robinson (7.7 ppg, 3.7 rpg), and Jacob Brown (1.4 ppg in 10 games). Hartfield started 28 games as Devin Haygood was in the starting lineup 22 times.
However, we’ll see what Coach Calhoun has in store for his program as the team will have a different feel from last year’s group. With that said, Calhoun built a powerhouse at Fairmont State. Within the last few days, he’s brought in a number of talented players. Here’s a look at the incoming class:
Donel Cathcart (Buffalo, NY) Niagara County Community College, 6’5/G
-Cathcart averaged 20.8 points and 8.5 rebounds per game this past season for the Thunder Wolves. Cathcart was named to the NJCAA Division II Second-Team. The Cardinal O’Hara-product has two year remaining.
Kendale Hampton (Savannah, GA) Garden City Community College, 6’3/G
-Hampton shot 41.8% a year ago and posted 13.7 points per game while being honored by the Kansas Jayhawk Community College Conference to be named to the All-League team. Hampton has two years remaining as well like Cathcart. Kendale held offers from Kent State, Colorado State, Loyola Marymount, Illinois State, Iona, South Carolina State, North Carolina A&T, and Texas State.
Brady Tenkle, Garden City Community College Head Basketball Coach
Coach Tenkle indicates, “Kendale’s one of the most efficient shooters I have had the opportunity to coach in my 18 years on the Junior College level. He’s an amazing athlete that can get to the rim with ease. He’s a scorer in all aspects of the game (3 point, drive, and mid-range). He’s a dominant defender that wants to defend the opponents’ best player. He’s at his best in crunch time and he’s that player that wants the last shot. He’ll never shy away from pressure situations. Kendale is extremely coachable and an amazing teammate. He chose Youngstown State because Coach Calhoun really cares for his players. The style of play that (the Penguins) play fits Kendale perfectly in what his strengths are.”
Antwan Maxwell (Savannah, GA) College of Central Florida, 6’7/F
-Maxwell averaged 8.4 points, 7.6 rebounds, and shot 38.3% from beyond the 3-point arc and 89.7% from the foul line this past season at College of Central Florida. Antwan chose Youngstown State over Georgia Southern, Lamar, and Mercer.
Jake Zehnder, College of Central Florida Assistant Basketball Coach
…”Antwan is a skilled face-up 4/3 who contributes in all aspects of the game,” indicates Zehnder. “Antwan’s numbers spoke for themselves this season as he was a borderline 50% (FG %)-40% (3PT%)-90% (FT%) guy who was top fifty player in the country in rebounding before he got hurt. He’ll be the first kid in the gym everyday and the last one to leave. I’ve been doing this for four years at the JUCO level and this is my first time dealing with the staff at YSU. Those guys were upfront about everything from the jump and Coach Calhoun seemed to genuinely care about our kid, which goes a long way. We support Antwan’s decision and can’t want to watch him help YSU both on and off the court.”
Olamide Pedersen (Bronshug, Denmark) Sunrise Christian Academy (KS), 6’9/F
-Pedersen averaged 12 points, 8 boards and 2 blocked shots per game as a freshman in Wichita while playing for the select team of the Sunrise Christian Academy.
Darius Quisenberry (Huber Heights, OH) Wayne High School (6’0/G)
-The First-Team All-Ohio selection led the Warriors to their #3 ranking in the AP poll of Division I with a 25-2 record. Quisenberry registered a 18.5 scoring average. Darius also had offers from the likes of Robert Morris, Wright State an Northern Kentucky.
Nathan Martindale, Wayne High School Head Basketball Coach
“Darius is a hard-nosed, extremely tough player,” says coach Martindale. “Pound for pound he was the strongest player that I’ve ever coached in my 15 years of coaching basketball. He has a great first step and elite quickness. Darius is a well-rounded player who makes others better around him. He’s a dynamic point guard that will lead this team for the next four years. The fans will love his grit and toughness and passion for the game. He won’t back down from anyone and will instantly be a fan favorite.” Martindale went onto state, “I believe that Darius wanted to play basketball for a program and a coaching staff that was going to push him to be the very best man he could be. I think the leadership at Youngstown State under Coach Calhoun is a great fit for Darius. Coach Calhoun and Coach Slay are both great coaches but even better men. After meeting Coach Slay in person I knew exactly why Darius felt comfortable with him. He was very relatable and you could just see his passion for people and the game of basketball instantly. I think it’s extremely tough for players to know where the best fit is for them and I think Darius ultimately made the decision he felt most comfortable with.”
Jelani Simmons (Columbus, OH) Beechcroft High School, 6’5/G
-The Beechcroft guard put together a stat line of 18.5 points, 4.9 assists, 5.1 rebounds, while making 76.7% from the line and 45.7% from three-point land. Simmons earned a First-Team All-Ohio nod in Division II. Beechcroft finished 2nd in the AP poll of Division II.
Atiba Taylor (Hackensack, NJ) Hackensack High School, 6’4/G
-Taylor led the Comets to a pair of State/Section titles and is known to be one of the top guards in the New York-New Jersey Tri-state area. Atiba had offers from Kansas State, Seton Hall, Rutgers, St. Joe’s and Connecticut. As his high school coach put it, “he believes in the coaching staff and he loved the campus. He feels like YSU was a place he can create his own legacy and do something special. He’d like to be a part of YSU’s first tournament team.”
Anthony Taylor, Hackensack High School’s Head Basketball Coach
…Coach Anthony Taylor points out, “Atiba can do everything on the floor. He rebounds, plays defense, makes great plays, and is a true competitor. He is very unselfish, loves facilitating and making crowd pleasing plays for the fans. He can dribble, pass, shoot, and scores when he wants. If defenders leave him open – he will knock down the three ball. He can also get in the lane to score, dish, or kick to the open shooters. He’s a true winner .He’s trouble for smaller defenders and blows by bigger defenders. YSU is getting the best player I’ve coached.” From coach Taylor’s perspective, “I believe Atiba is headed into a great situation where he can be a significant part of creating a dynamic basketball culture at YSU. Coach Calhoun is proven to be a winner and with Atiba’s winning mentality and willingness to do anything for the team to be successful, I think the future is bright and headed in the right direction. I think this is a great fit for both Atiba and YSU.”