Following the 2006-07 season, a season in which Youngstown State finished with a 14-17 record, the future for the Penguins and head coach Jerry Slocum was very much uncertain as the program lost to graduation who at the time was considered one of the greatest to play at the Beeghly Center, Quinn Humprey.
Humphrey was possibly the best ever at YSU since the program joined the ranks of NCAA D.1, finishing with 1,707 points while pulling down 674 rebounds and 253 assists in his career.
Now Jerry Slocum must replace the player who by most accounts is the best player to ever lace up the sneakers for Youngstown State as Kendrick Perry played his last contest for the red and white on Tuesday evening in the Penguins 96-92 heart breaking loss at Oakland in the first-round of the Horizon League tournament.
Perry, who was recently named to the All-Horizon League First Team for the third consecutive season, tied a career-high 35 points in his last collegiate game finishes his YSU career with 1,991 points, 506 rebounds, and 140 assists while shooting the ball .468% from the field and .348% from behind the arc.
With Perry out of the mix next season, how will Slocum replace the 21.3 points per game the 6-0 guard out of Florida averaged this past season?
The answer will likely be a combination of Ryan Weber and Bobby Hain, both of which will be juniors next season.
Weber at times looked to be ready and primed to be an All-Horizon League performer this season before an incident at practice resulted in a broken nose, taking away with some of the momentum and progress the 6-6 forward from Indianapolis had going. Despite the injury, Weber finished the season strong averaging 12.2 points per contest and appears to be the most viable scoring option for the Penguins next season with his ability to knock down three-pointers and penetrate into the paint.
Like Weber, Hain had moments this season in which the 6-10 forward/center combo from Jupiter, Florida looked to be ready to take his game to the next level. Hain finished this past season averaging 11.1 points and 7.7 rebounds per game.
With Weber and Hain appearing ready to pick up the load, who will step up for the Penguins next season to compliment the juniors.
DJ Cole will return as the starting point guard as the 5-11 senior to be had done an excellent job handling the ball for YSU the past two seasons. Cole might not put up head turning offensive numbers but the Kansas native has shown the ability to shoot the ball from behind the arc and get to the rim while averaging 8.3 points and a team-high 4.3 assists per contest this past season.
Youngstown State also will feature a slew of sophomores on their roster, all of which got some playing time this past season.
The biggest question mark on the team heading into next season could be Marcus Keene, and that question is if the 5-11 guard out of San Antonio, Texas will even be with the program next season.
Keene showed promise early this past season scoring 10 points in 20-minutes in his Penguin debut, a 73-57 season opening victory at Kennesaw State. Keene also had a big game against UMass, scoring 20 points. Appearing like a starter-in-waiting for the 2014-15 season, Keene’s future with the program reached the point of uncertainty when he reportedly broke the nose of Weber during a heated practice.
The wildcard for the Penguins next season could be senior to be Shawn Amiker who has served as a starter at times during his YSU career.
Amiker, a 6-5 athletic forward from Oak Park, Michigan has shown the ability to get to the rim with ease while averaging 5.6 points per contest this past season. Amiker’s abilities were put on display when he scored 25 points on 9 of 12 shooting in a 83-81 overtime loss at Detroit earlier this month.
With some talent still remaining in place, the Penguins could possibly turn to their most anticipated recruiting class in recent years to add some much-needed depth and scoring production.
Leading the way for the incoming freshman is Sidney Umade, a 6-7 forward from San Antonio, Texas who was a 3-star ESPN recruit who also held an offer from Murray State.
Joining Umade in the recruiting class is Bryce Nickels and Ja’Christian Biles.
Nickels, a 6-8 center from Tampa, Florida held offers from Georgia Tech, George Mason, and Florida Atlantic before ultimately signing with the Penguins.
Biles comes to YSU from Oak Park, Michigan and keeps that Motor City pipe line rolling into the Mahoning Valley. Rated as the 12th best player in the state of Michigan as a high school senior the 6-2 guard and is considered to be an under-the-radar type of recruit who can score from perimeter, mid rage, and finish at the rim and really turned some heads this past July at the Adidas Summer Invitational.
So as much as it will hurt to lose Kendrick Perry, there will always be someone ready to rise to the occasion and become the next great player to grace Dom Rosselli Court.