YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – The protests have hit close to home for the YSU men’s basketball team over the past week.
The Penguins are a tight-knit group, currently separated by the pandemic, and now dealing with ongoing social injustice stemming from the death of George Floyd.
“I would be lying to you if I said they weren’t hurting,” said Jerrod Calhoun, head coach of the men’s basketball team. “You can feel it and it’s a shame right now that we’re not together right now. We’re going to try to bring them back in July because I miss them and I feel for them.”
Calhoun said the team has met virtually several times over the past week, participating in productive conversations about race and obstacles his players continue to face.
Senior Naz Bohannon was one of numerous YSU players to take part in the peaceful protests. Bohannon walked the streets in both Cleveland and Youngstown this past weekend.
“When I was at the Youngstown protest, I was telling the fellas, it was just surreal to relive the moments I read about the history books,” said Bohannon. “All because our country can’t figure out what equal really means.”
The men’s basketball team is quite a diverse group, with four countries represented on this past year’s roster.
“I’ve always been on teams with different races,” said Bohannon. “Some of the best teams that I’ve been on and we figured it out and figured out how to win and win championships. But it’s also healthy to have the conversation that this is what goes on outside of our locker room.”
YSU President Jim Tressel issued a statement on Monday, pledging to foster “inclusive environments” on campus with more “cultural understanding.” Coach Calhoun and his team echo those sentiments.
“We have to unite, we have to stay together, we have to make a stand and we can’t be silent about some of these issues,” said Calhoun.
“What is the Youngstown State basketball team going to do as far as the movement goes?” asked Bohannon. “We know if we win a championship, we’ll put a dent in YSU men’s basketball history forever, but what will we remember for this history book that we’re going through in 2020?”