By: Michael Foster
Exhibition match-ups in college hoops are rarely more than an after thought, but for the KSU men’s basketball program, last night definitely provided many positives.
A new mascot, new Adidas uniforms, brand new LED boards and a wonderful new jumbotron made for a nice scene at the Convocation Center last night as the Owls hosted the Piedmont College Lions.
The product on the court did not disappoint, either. One would assume not much could be made from an exhibition game, but considering the Owls’ 0-18 conference record from last year was preceded with a nail-biter of an exhibition against West Georgia, seeing the team prove to be the superior was refreshing.
KSU defeated Piedmont last night to the tune of 82-43.
Preseason All-Atlantic Sun Conference guard/forward Markeith Cummings (pictured left) was hands down the best player on the floor. Cummings’ final line provided 23 points on 11 of 15 shooting, nine rebounds, three steals and a block.
His performance, however, isn’t very newsworthy. Cummings has been a stellar player for the Owls for three straight years, but the team has regressed each season he’s been in a black and gold uniform. What the Owls need is not a superstar, but depth–which is something they mightily lacked last season.
Head coach Lewis Preston, entering his second year having to prove a lot of progression, needs his freshman class to produce if depth is going to be a fix this season.
Preston’s job at KSU is no doubt safe. Confidence will be on his side as he continues to build a more competitive foundation, and possibly his two most prized players did not even participate in last night’s game.
They won’t during the season either. Transfers Willy Kouassi and Bernard Morena, both former Auburn Tigers, will have to sit out this season because of transfer rules. 2013 will be the year KSU can reload with superior talent and become a true competitor in the Atlantic Sun Conference.
But, for this year, a group of young, talented, but undoubtedly raw freshman will have to anchor the ship.
Point guard Yonel Brown, a freshman from Berkmar High School in Lawrenceville, further proved Preston has passed the recruiting test.
Brown (pictured right) was the lone freshman to start for the Owls last night, and he made an immediate impact. Brown hit 6 of 11 from the floor, including 4 of 7 from three-point range on his way to 16 points. The diminutive freshman, standing at just 5’9″, impressed with six assists as well.
Brown’s instant impact likened a lot to the debut of Delbert Love, last year. Love was Preston’s lone recruit when he entered Kennesaw from Penn State, and was the Owls bright spot in 2011 on his way to the A-Sun All-Freshman team.
Brandon Montgomery and Nigel Pruitt has some nice plays off the bench as well, and walk-on Kris Drees got the crowd fired up with three baskets in seven minutes.
Still, however, the Owls appear to have some work to do. For KSU’s starting five to function well this year, they are going to need a big season from starting forward Andrew Oshemen.
Oshemen, a 6’9″ junior, is the Owls tallest player. He did not have as much of a starting role in 2011, but started last night. He wasn’t amazing, going for six points on just one basket and five rebounds.
Going into the game, the expectation for Owls fans should have been to see a big performance from Oshemen against a smaller team.
6’7″ forward Brandon Dawson had a nice game as a back up, scoring 10 points. But, Dawson does not have the potential that Oshemen has under the basket. If KSU is going to make noise in the conference this season, Oshemen needs to take on a bigger role and be an aggressor in the Owls’ offense.
Senior forward Aaron Anderson was his usual self in 28 minutes, going 3 of 5 from the field, while Delbert Love had a great night despite 3 of 11 shooting as he finished with eight points, five rebounds, seven assists and four steals.
KSU finished with an impressive paint-scoring differential of 46-12.
KSU had a nice showing last night, and there was a considerably impressive crowd at the Convocation Center.
Owls fans will learn how this team competes against competition when it plays on the road against Tennessee in its season opener next Friday in Knoxville.