Archive for November, 2009

Pitt Panthers Get By Tough Youngstown State Penguins, 72-56

It’s the kind of game that gets circled on every YSU magnetic refrigerator schedule handed out at the first home game. It’s the recruiting tool that potential players consider when making their choices. But most importantly, it is a game to gauge the ability of a team that thinks that they might just have enough to compete on a grander level.

YSU had tied the game at 42, but faltered down the stretch as Pitt came away with a 72-56 victory.  Free throws, shot selection, and defensive breakdowns were the difference over the last twelve minutes of the game, which the Panthers outscored the Penguins 30-14.

YSU jumped out to a 10-5 lead on a pair of DeAndre Mays threes, but Pitt used the shot clock to perfection, nailing a couple of their own threes with one second left to have an 18-13 lead at the 12:36 mark of the first half.

With 7:37 left in the first half, Pitt was using its arsenal of good guards to attck the hoop, knock down shots, and complete three-point chances. Brad Wanamaker (pictured above) and Travon Woodall completed drives to the hoop and each knocked down a free throw to post a 26-19 lead for the Panthers.

The Penguins used a 13-4 run to pull to 30-28, but Pitt would score the last four points of the half to hold a 34-28 halftime lead.

Vance Cooksey hit one of two free throws at the 12:26 mark of the second half to pull YSU into a 42-42 tie at a silenced Petersen Events Center. YSU, to this point, was playing terrific half court zone defense and outhustling the Panthers to many loose balls.

The hot shooting of Ashton Gibbs and Gary McGhee pushed the Pitt lead to 56-47 with 7:31 left in the game. Gibbs connected on a pair of threes and McGhee hit a pair of free throws and had a basket in the paint.

Pitt pushed their lead to 64-49 with 4:55 left in the game. Everything that YSU was doing right earlier could not be found over a five minute-or-so stretch. The offense was throwing up wild shots and the defense was not as aggressive as they were in the first half.

Pitt coasted the rest of the way to win the contest 72-56 to push their record to 119-10 all-time at the Petersen Events Center.

Coach Jerry Slocum was happy with his team’s effort in the first half but disappointed in the final result. “We missed some easy shots, did not shoot our free throws well and had some breakdowns on defense, and that was the difference in the game. Defensively, we played well for about 32 minutes. This is a great program with great tradition and you have to play a whole game to win.”

For the Penguins (3-3), Kelvin Bright finished with 20 points on 9-13 shooting from the field. Mays had 16 and was the only Penguin perfect from the charity stripe going 4-4.

Pitt was paced by Gibbs and Wanamaker who tallied 14 points each. Pitt (5-1) also got 10 rebounds each from McGhee and Nasir Robinson.

Stars Steal One From Phantoms With 5-4 Shootout Win

Neither the Youngstown Phantoms or Lincoln Stars won or lost a game via the shootout this season.  Something had to give as the two teams were deadlocked at four goals apiece at the end of overtime.  John McCarron scored Lincoln’s second goal of the shootout and the Phantoms could only muster one goal in their five chances.  The result was a 5-4 shootout loss for Youngstown in a game that saw Lincoln tie things up with just 12 seconds left in regulation.

The Stars hit the scoreboard at the 5:55 mark of the first quarter when Brodie Reid scored shorthanded. For the Stars, it was their second shorthanded goal of the year. Reid connected from just inside the face off circle to the right of goaltender Matt Mahalak.

The first period came to an end with the Stars holding a 1-0 lead. The Phantoms played what may have been their sloppiest period of the season marred with turnovers and lackluster passing. They were hitting, and that is great, but hitting doesn’t register digits on the scoreboard.

That would all change as the Phantoms took just 37 seconds of the second period to find the net. Luke Eibler (pictured) connected on an even-strength shot that deflected in off the post to beat Stars net minder Jared Coreau. The tally tied the game at a goal apiece.

Nick Czinder got in on the act at the 4:31 mark, assisted by Stuart Higgins. Czinder’s goal, his seventh on the season, put the Phantoms ahead 2-1. Coach Bob Mainhardt should be given assists on the two Phantoms goals as he surely lit a fire under his team at the intermission. The Czinder goal also saw the Stars replace Coreau with new goalkeeper Matt Green.

Youngstown kept scoring as they registered a powerplay goal at the 10:38 mark. David Dowd connected from 20 feet to capitalize on a two-man advantage. Dowd was assisted by Andrej Sustr and David Donnellan. The powerplay score marked the sixth time in the last seven games the Phantoms have cashed in with a man advantage.

Lincloln cut into the Phantom lead at the 18:52 mark of the second period. Stars Defenseman Cory Hibbeler scored his first of the year, assisted by David Gerths and Reid. The second period would end with the Phantoms ahead 3-2.

The Phantoms took a two-goal lead with 3:56 left in the game when Eibler connected for a second time in the game. Stuart Higgins and Andrew Lamont picked up assists on some pretty passing at close range.

The Stars showed some resiliency in scoring a goal with 2:38 left in the game to cut the Phantom lead to 4-3.  Brodie Reid connected on a power play chance with assists from Matt Bruneteau and Ben Lynch. The goal was Reid’s seventh on the season.

With twelve seconds remaining in the game and the Stars on the power play, Lynch tied the game, 4-4, on a nice feed from Kyle Gibbons and the two goal lead had now evaporated and overtime was needed to decide the outcome.

No one was able to score in overtime setting the stage for the first-ever Phantoms shootout. The Stars also were untested in shootouts.

Gibbons shot first for Lincoln and missed. Brett Gensler went first for Youngstown and also missed. Brodie Reid was next for Lincoln and he hit the post and missed.  The Phantoms sent Andrej Sustr who connected and put the Phantoms ahead 1-0. Dominic Shine tied it up for Lincoln. The Phantoms sent Stuart Higgins who was stoned attempting the five-hole shot. All tied up 1-1. Tucker Brockett was stopped for Lincoln, and Joe Zarbo was denied for the Phantoms. Tied at 1-1, John McCarron scored to put Lincoln ahead 2-1. David Dowd was given the chance to tie it up but was stopped by Stars goaltender Matt Green preserving the shootout victory for Lincoln.

The Phantoms were outshot 33-21 but still managed to stay in the game thanks to some great stops by Mahalak. With the loss the Phantoms fell to 8-7-2 and the Stars improved to 7-12-0. The two teams will meet again Saturday night.

Coach Mainhardt was not pleased with the effort put forth by the Phantoms.  “We have guys that have never won before, and they refuse to learn how to win.  We continuously give up games because guys won’t stick to the gameplan.  I’m getting to the end of the line with some of these guys and Youngstown could have some new guys to cheer for if things don’t change real soon.  We have got a selfish group.  They think that when you go up two goals that it is time to put up stats and that is how they will get to the next level.  I am very frustrated because I have never had a group that refuses to stick to the gameplan like this group.”

Richard Young Tilt-O-Meter.

Entering This Game: 82 Penalty Minutes

vs Lincoln 11/27: 7 minutes

New Total: 89 minutes

Young was on his best behavior in the first two periods, almost eerily. That would all change in the third period as Young got whistled for elbowing and immediately fought with Stars D Cory Hibbeler to pick up a five minute fighting penalty.

YSU Basketball Profiles: Andy Timko

Andy Timko was an area basketball standout while playing his high school ball at McDonald.  Timko ventured over to Westminster for a year but transferred home to Youngstown State.  He goes from being the manager last year to an active member of the roster this season.  Don’t get it wrong, this is no Rudy tale, Timko can play.  He has declared his major to be History.  If studying history means anything to the Mahoning Valley, it may repeat itself in the next few years.  Timko is content with his clearly defined role and all of the hard work is making his fellow Penguin cagers better.  I met with Andy the day before Thanksgiving, and just four days before his 21st birthday to discuss basketball, Coach Slocum, and following a family member (Bruce Timko) who was one of the best to ever wear a Penguin uniform.

Paneech:  Coming out of McDonald, you chose to go to Westminster.  Who else recruited you, and how did you end up a Titan?

Timko:  There was alot of smaller schools like Geneva and Walsh recruiting me.  I went on a visit to Westminster and I really liked the small campus.  They seemed really excited with the chance to have me and that was what made the decision for me.  The first time I was ever on campus, I was with my mother and she asked me if I wanted to swing by and see it.  There was a game going on and the head coach recognized me as soon as we walked in, and that was really the first time I had ever been there.

Paneech:  As a Freshman, you were voted Newcomer of The Year, the future looked bright there so what triggered you to leave Westminster?

Timko:  It was really a financial thing.  Division-III schools really can’t give you much help.  Westminster is a small and private school and tuition was around $30,000 a year.  They can get you a little help for your grades, but after that it was still astronomical. 

Paneech:  How did you end up at YSU?

Timko:  The price of tuition and just being from here, I knew this is where I wanted to be. 

Paneech:  Last year you redshirted and served as team manager.  How did that arrangement come about?

Timko:  I went up and talked to the coaches in the Summer before the season started and explained my situation coming back.  I told them that I understood that nothing was going to be handed to me.  They told me that the best thing they could do for me would be for me to help out the team in practice and they would be able to help me financially.  I would then be given a chance to play the following year.  I just kept working on my game and things worked out for me.

Paneech:  Now that you are a member of the active roster, what is your role with this team?

Timko:  This year what I am doing alot of is scout team stuff.  I learn the other teams plays and run them against our guys.  I’m trying to help out any way I can.  Personally, I am working as hard as I can at practice every day to get better and trying to help us win games by making our guys better.

Paneech:  What is it like playing for Coach Slocum?

Timko:  It’s a good experience.  He is definitely the most knowledgeable basketball coach that I have ever been around.  He has so much passion for the game and a higher understanding that sometimes it takes awhile to comprehend.  You have got to respect someone with all of his accomplishments and it is a real privelage to learn from him.

Paneech:  How big is it for this YSU team to go to Pittsburgh and have a good showing?

Timko:  It’s real big.  It’s always fun to go up against the major schools.  It is also a great test for us before we get into conference play.  We are looking forward to the experience and how we stack up against those guys.

Paneech:  Talk to me about how hard it is to balance practice, school, and a personal life.

Timko:  Your first couple of years in college it is rough.  You go to practices and think it is easy until you get your first couple of tests back, and you are like, wow, I need to study more.  After you get into the flow it isn’t too bad. 

Paneech:  You turn 21 on Sunday.  Are you going to have any time to enjoy your birthday or is the day going to be spent watching film, practicing, and studying for finals?

Timko:  I’m sure we will have practice and it will not be an off day.  I’ll squeeze something in for my birthday, hopefully I can go out to eat or something.

Paneech:  Being the only truly local roster player, I hear alot of cheers for you when you get into a game.  Is that a distraction or does it make you nervous to know that you have friends and family there?

Timko:  Not initially.  I get it more after the game when people are coming up to me telling me that you should have done this or you should have done that, or telling me “Good job, Andy.”  It’s all fun and I really feel privelaged to be a part of the team.  There are guys around here that come out of high school wanting to walk on.  I really appreciate the opportunity I have been given and I am not taking anything for granted.  I am using all of that local support for motivation to keep working harder and hopefully to keep helping the team.

Paneech:  Talk to me about your uncle, Bruce Timko, and his history here.

Timko:  I have seen one grainy film of him playing here.  I have been hearing he was good my whole life.  Just because of him, we have been coming to YSU games for a long time.  I know he is still good too.  He was a high school basketball coach a couple of years ago.  On his off days and after practice he would work with me a little bit and would whip my butt playing one-on-one.  I’ve got two coaches at every family function, my uncle on one side, and my father (Andy) on the other side.  Their passion for the game has rubbed off on me.  They both have alot to say, and sometimes you don’t want to sit there and listen to it, but ultimately what they say helps me.  He’s on the wall behind you, so they know what they are talking about.  (Andy was referring to a painting of Bruce Timko on the wall of the Coaches Court area in Beeghly Center where the interview was conducted.)

Paneech:  How far can this team really go?  Ashen Ward told me last week that you guys might be upset in the third round of the NCAA Tournament.

Timko:  (laughs) If we get to the tournament, and I believe there is a chance we will, I would like to think we could win it.  It would be fun.

One Word Answers

Favorite TV Show:  Ghost Lab.

Best Area Pizza:  Brier Hill.

Best Class You Have Taken At YSU:  Abnormal Psychology.

Worst Habit:  Oversleeping, Sometimes I hit snooze one too many times.

Biggest Phobia:  Ghosts.  I will watch a season of Ghost Lab and then I can’t sleep for a week.

Favorite Holiday:  Christmas.

Best Current NBA Player:  Kobe Bryant.

Favorite Flavor of Chicken Wings:  Teriyaki.

Favorite Color:  Black.

One Word To Describe Coach Slocum:  Passionate.


YSU Gets Into Rhythm At The Expense Of Geneva, 88-47

Jerry Slocum may have had mixed emotions as Youngstown State hosted Geneva Tuesday night. Slocum coached at Geneva, where he posted a 202-81 record.  In the end, Slocum added another win to his career record, this one at Youngstown State as the Penguins rolled 88-47.

Geneva showed some fight early in the game and only trailed 11-9 at the 10:56 mark. A pair of DeAndre Mays (pictured) threes quickly pushed that slim lead to 19-11 less than two minutes later.

The Penguins increased the lead to 15 points with just under three minutes remaining in the opening half. A couple of Zack Rebillot baskets and some sloppy Geneva half-court offense seemed to ignite the Penguins. At the half, the Golden Tornadoes found themselves trailing YSU by the score of 39-23.

Mays had the hot hand for YSU in the first half pouring in 13 points, including 3 three-pointers. Geneva was paced by their leading scorer Rich Colick who had nine points at the break.

The second half was not much different than the first. The Penguins were playing a solid half-court game against undersized Geneva. The Golden Tornadoes did get a few threes from Mineral Ridge Grad  TJ Bevilacqua to shave the YSU lead to 17 at one point.

With just under eight minutes left in the game, YSU held a 66-40 lead. The Penguins capitalized on a few fastbreak opportunities to pull away and the defense was solid with Geneva getting very limited looks at the hoop and almost no second chances on offense. Five minutes later, the lead was stretched to 39 points and the margin of victory for YSU would end up 41, as the Penguins were victorious, 88-47.

YSU (3-2), which shot just over 50% from the field in this one,  got 18 from Mays and eleven from both Ashen Ward and Vance Cooksey.  Ward also hauled in seven rebounds.

Geneva (1-2) was lead by Bevilacqua who scored 17 points and went 3-5 from 3-point range.

Coach Slocum was pleased with the effort.  “It was good for us to just let it go and just play.  When you are open, you have to knock down the shots, and tonight we did.  We have a monumental task in front of us and we just have to keep our focus game-to-game.”

YSU plays against an Elite Eight team Saturday when they travel to Pittsburgh to do battle with the Panthers.  The game tips off at noon and can be heard on AM-570 with Robb Schmidt calling the action.

The Steelers Will Not Make The Playoffs

Ben Roethlisberger has a bad headache.  Charlie Batch has a bad wrist.  Troy Polamalu is still gimpy.  Welcome to the other side of the spectrum Steeler fans, it’s called bad luck, and you didn’t have too much of it last season. 

Losing to Kansas City in Week 11 and dropping to 6-4 is only part of the problem.  Yeah, I know, you get to play the Browns again.  Can Dennis Dixon solve all of your problems?  uh, no.

Dixon (pictured while getting hurt at Oregon) is an athlete who probably didn’t work much with the first unit at practice.  The way it was drawn up, if Ben got hurt, Charlie would put his cape on and fly in to save the day.  I don’t know if Dixon will even play.  Ben is claiming he is fine, but with all of the chances the Chiefs had to sack him (and couldn’t) how long will he last against the Ravens this weekend?

The offensive line has struggled.  Last year the defense was bailing a subpar offense out almost every game.  This year, the shoe is on the other foot, as the Steelers have given up a return touchdown in an NFL record of eight straight games.  The Rooney’s won’t stand for it, that’s why Pittsburgh always rebounds.  However, the hourglass is running thin and even though Cincinnati only has a one game lead, they beat Pittsburgh twice to control a tiebreaker.


Youngstown State Football Press Conference: New Coach Wanted

Ron Strollo has known Jon Heacock for almost half of his life.  According to Strollo, YSU’s Executive Director of Intercollegiate Athletics, they spent more time with each other than they did with their own families over those years.  Strollo addressed the media at a special press conference on Monday and spoke about a host of issues including why Heacock chose to step down, who will be considered for the vacancy, and what factors will finalize the decision.

Heacock surprised many on Sunday when he announced that he would be resigning.  Being only the fifth head coach in Youngstown State University’s history, the decision was surely a tough one because of his obvious passion for both the football program and the university.  Strollo claimed that had Heacock not voluntarily stepped down, that he would have been heavily evaluated.  Strollo also commented on the recent turn of events saying, “We talked last week.  I knew it was something he was considering.  I spoke with him yesterday about an hour before he spoke to his team and staff.”

Strollo commented that the assistant coaches are under contract until February.  When asked if the staff will be somewhat retained, Strollo remarked, “They will have opportunities to speak with the new head coach.  However, it would be hard to hold a head coach accountable if you tell him who his soldiers are.”

This search will be like no other because there is little time to work with.  Strollo noted that the candidate they will be looking for should have Division-I coaching experience, have alot of energy, and be devoted to a busy recruiting process.  He also said that many schools, unlike the Big-10, are still playing their regular season out and it would not make sense to bother anyone while they are doing their job elsewhere.  Once the time is right, the field would be narrowed.  Strollo admitted talking to an old friend, Jim Tressel, about the sudden turn of events.  “I talked with Coach Tressel yesterday.  I asked him if I could bounce something off of him.  He told me when we get to a final group that he would be happy to give his input.  The advantage that we have is what Tressel gave.  Because he made a successful transition to Ohio State, it makes this job more attractive.”

Many coaches at the higher level have agents, some who have already called to inquire about the vacancy.  Names will not be released because it is not the intent of YSU to damage the reputation or pride of any candidate.  Heacock was the lowest paid coach in the Missouri Valley Football Conference and Strollo said that the pay for the new YSU Coach will be contingent on the qualified candidate’s experience.

The reality of it is there will be mad speculation over the next few weeks.  The Youngstown rumor mill will be busier than GM in saying why or why not on every single name brought up.  I asked Strollo after the press conference if Charlie Weiss was on his list.  He semi-chuckled and said affordability would be an issue.

Some of the more realistic choices on my unofficial list are Mark Snyder, who is probably going to get canned at Marshall by Christmas.  Rick Shepas, a former YSU player who is coaching football at Waynesburg.  Anyone named Stoops who is not a head college coach, or anyone named Pellini or Mangino (I am playing the hometown name association card here).

The whole press conference was sad.  Strollo and Heacock are both quality people.  They are cut from the same mold in so many ways and neither guy was a “win at any cost” type.  They both valued a student’s education and emphasized that what a student-athlete does after the games are over with their lives is what matters most.  Strollo is a class act, he said Heacock will have no problems at all finding employment based on his reputation.  Heacock knows that there are expectations that he was not meeting.  It is an amicable split where hopefully both parties benefit in the long run.

Heacock Steps Down As YSU Football Coach

Youngstown State Football Coach Jon Heacock formally resigned his head coaching position on Sunday, just 24 hours after a terrific road win that sealed a winning season.  To say that Heacock just did not care would be the furthest thing from the truth. 

Heacock came on board in 1992 as the defensive coordinator for Jim Tressel.  When Tressel left Youngstown State to accept the Ohio State University job in 2000, Heacock was selected to be the new head coach of the Penguins.  The switch would ultimately draw constant comparison to the Tressel days, a record nobody would have an easy time duplicating.

Tressel made the Division I-AA playoffs 10 times in 15 seasons while at Youngstown State.  He also won the big prize, a national championship, four times in those 10 appearances.  Heacock only got into the playoffs in 2006, and leaves YSU with a 60-44 record.

IMG_3441    IMG_3283

“I’ve known Jon since my senior year on the football team in 1991, and he has always been a genuine, caring person for the Youngstown State program and the community,” said Ron Strollo, Executive Director of Intercollegiate Athletics.  “I would want Jon, as well as our fans and supporters, to know that we appreciate the tremendous challenges and expectation of being the Head Football Coach at Youngstown State.  He fulfilled those duties in a manner that would make every Penguin fan proud.  Our best wishes and gratitude are extended to Jon and his family for their many sacrifices on behalf of this institution.”

Heacock, the conference coach of the year in 2005 and 2006, will have success somewhere else.  Look for him to accept a defensive coordinator position at a different school for next season, perhaps a major Division I program in the Midwest.

The thing that made Heacock genuine to so many was his very strong moral and faith based attitude.  His players are proof that ‘buying in’ to what Heacock was teaching was never hard or abrasive.  Senior Brian Mellott even commented in a recent interview, “To see some of the people who came here until the time they left was quite a transition.  I am not badmouthing anyone, but you should have seen some of these guys when they first got here.  Their behavior and attitude were transformed into respectability, and that is a testament to him [Heacock].”

Sometimes a move like this benefits both parties.  It marks a fresh start for the institution as well as the people seperated from it.  Hopefully, Heacock can prosper from this seemingly mutual divorce and succeed at some capacity wherever it is that he lands.  Also, Youngstown State, suddenly a school in transition, can select the best replacement as the last bolts of the Jim Tressel era come off of the machine, or are they?

Browns Almost Match Entire Season Output On Offense, Still Lose

I’m already hearing the array of comments from Cleveland Browns fans on Sunday’s 38-37 loss at Detroit.  The Browns had a 21-point first half lead and blew that by halftime.  Some Browns fans are whining about a pass interference call which gave the Lions an untimed down to win the game on the one.  Looked like pass interference to this impartial viewer. 

What is fascinating about the loss is that going into the game, Cleveland had a whopping five offensive touchdowns on the year.  Brady Quinn tossed four touchdowns in the loss.  Pinch yourself Browns fans, then say ouch because you can’t dream this stuff up.

Other Browns fans are playing the “Whew, we almost won and blew our first overall draft pick chances”.  Sorry Browns fans, you only get to pick one player with that strategy, you need about 20 to be a .500 team next year.

Again,  I don’t enjoy seeing the Browns lose.  I would prefer they win a few games as they truly are the laughing stock of the NFL these days.  Call it sympathy, but Eric Mangini can’t get a royal straight flush if all the kings were taken out of the deck.  They just don’t have the personnel to win right now.  Bring Drew Brees in, it would make no difference.

It’s basketball season on the Shores of Lake Erie, as of 4:12 pm Sunday.  Even the best and most patient fans in football – Cleveland Browns fans – have to be regurgitating with disgust.

Tressel Reminds Everyone Once A Year

Jim Tressel reminds Ohio State fans why he is the head coach every November.  Tressel owns Michigan, period.  It is comical to hear people whine when Ohio State loses a game about Tressel failing as a coach, and how it is time for Tressel to move on because he is not getting the job done.

When John Cooper was Ohio State’s Football Coach, I recall people making statements like, “I don’t care if we go 1-11, as long as the 1 is Michigan.”  These fans are the same ones calling for Tressel to now step away when everything is not perfect.  It will not be as loud this week because he beat the Wolverines again. 

Understand this:  The Big-10 is not the most powerful conference in college football.  That is reality.  The Rust Belt, that many of the Big-10 Schools are located in, has lost people.  Jobs have been cut and population has shifted.  There is less gum to throw at the wall to see what may stick. 

 John Cooper was a decent coach but he is no Jim Tressel.  He could not beat Michigan and it drove so many people rooting for the Buckeyes nuts for so many years. 

Lloyd Carr is gone, Tressel ruined that job for him.  Rich Rodriguez, now 0-2 against Ohio State, will start to feel heat if he continues to lose to Ohio State.  Say what you want, in this rivalry the coaches are judged on that game almost exclusively.  If Rodriguez continues to get beat by Tressel every November, he can repack the horses and buggies and head back toward West Virginia.

To the critics of Jim Tressel, a bit of advice:  If you are a true Ohio State fan, remember the Cooper era and one win against Michigan every ten years, will that shut you up?

YSU Basketball Profiles: Ashen Ward

Coming out of Villa Angela-St. Joseph’s (VASJ), Ashen Ward was the guy who got the ball to win a game near the end, he was Mr. Clutch, and he came through.  Now a Sophomore Penguin, Ward is comfortable with his role, confident in his team, and likes being a student at Youngstown State.  I recently caught up with Ward to discuss the state of YSU Basketball, Coach Slocum, and where this team is headed.

Paneech:  Talk about your high school days at VASJ in Cleveland where you were the team captain.

Ward:  My high school experience was all about tradition.  I started out a Freshman taking in what the people above me were doing and learning.  As I was getting older, I was trying to keep the success going at our school.  It was all about family and tradition.  I didn’t want the program to fall when the guys above me left, I wanted to keep that tradition going.

Paneech:  So how weird is it going from high school, where you are ‘the man’, to going to a college team where you have to again prove yourself for minutes?

Ward:  I love proving myself.  As a Freshman in high school to the time you get older, proving yourself makes it all the more better, knowing that you really deserve it.  That’s all I am doing now, just working hard, and I know that me working hard is making our team better.  I love it here, I am getting to know this area a little better.  When you are all brothers on a team, it helps, just like a family.

Paneech:  What is it like playing for Coach Slocum?

Ward:  He is really hands-on, he is really knowledgeable and is always teaching.  When he tells you something, he wants to see it progress and use it in a game.  He will do whatever he has to do, simulate drills, do drills with us, and wants to be a part of it, and that helps us.

Paneech:  You have now played 4 games, two were against NCAA Tournament teams from a year ago in Xavier and Kent State.  Do these games give confidence to the team?

Ward:  We had confidence before the first game, we had confidence after our loss at Xavier, and we are a confident team that needs to bring that to the floor.  Those games against Xavier and Kent will help us because we were competitive.  When we play other teams we will go in thinking we are the better team.  When you go against a powerhouse like Xavier, it feels good to come back and be the powerhouse against Hiram.  We bring it every night and compete no matter who we are playing.

Paneech:  Against Kent State, Coach Slocum was not happy with free throw shooting and called missed free throws additional turnovers.  Will you be shooting extra free throws at practice?

Ward:  Well, we will, but we take it upon ourselves as a team to be good free throw shooters.  I know it didn’t show against Kent, but we spend alot of time in practice and on our own getting better at the line, and we need to just bring that to the game. 

Paneech:  Describe a practice day from the time you wake up until you go to sleep.

Ward:  I wake up and have an eight-o’clock class.  Then we have practice from 9 until coach feels it should be over, usually about 12 or 12:30.  My next class is at 2 and I have a night class at 5.  I usually go to the gym after that class and get some shots up with some of the guys.  After that, I will head home, do some homework, and go to sleep knowing I am going to do it all over again.

Paneech:  What does it mean to the team when alot of people show up for a game?

Ward:  It means alot to us.  To know that people are behind us like the Kent game means alot.  When you put so much work and effort, it feels good to know that you have people behind you.  It gets everybody going, even if you are not on the floor, you feel it. 

Paneech:  Who wins the NCAA Tournament this year?

Ward:  (laughsYoungstown State!

Paneech:  Good answer.  Say YSU gets upset in the Final Four, who do you see winning?

Ward:  I like Kansas.  They get good play out of the guards and have a strong big man.  They have got a good all-around game.

Paneech:  Where does YSU finish in the Horizon League this year?

Ward:  I feel like last year we proved ourselves to be a strong team in the conference.  I don’t really see anyone in this league that we can’t beat.  This team has alot of heart.  What we lack in talent and execution sometimes, we make up with heart. 

Paneech:  How does it feel looking up and seeing football players, track and field champions, and golfers watching you guys play a home game?

Ward:  I have seen that grow alot over my first year here.  I went to the football games and volleyball games, and it is good to see everyone returning it. 

Paneech:  Coach Slocum said everything on this team is symmetric and two-fold, meaning the team depth should not be an issue.  Who is your twin, the guy you replace?

Ward:  Kelvin Bright is my boy.  He goes out and does his thing and if he needs a blow I step in and do my job, we are like a tandem out there.  I guard him at practice and we live together so I see his face all of the time. 

One Word Answers

Favorite Flavor Of Ice Cream:  Strawberry.

Biggest Phobia:  Failure.

Worst Habit:  Humming, I hum alot.

Nicest Thing About Youngstown:  The teachers here really care.

Favorite TV Show:  Law & Order.

The Toy You Cherished Most As A Child:  My Power Rangers.  You could stick them all together and use five of them together and they would make this big monster, I loved it.

Favorite Color:  Black.

Favorite Holiday:  Christmas.

Favorite NBA Player:  LeBron James.

Sport You Watch When Basketball Isn’t On?  Football.

Favorite Flavor Of Chicken Wings:  Hot.