Since the salad days of Kevin Mackey, the “Run and Stun,” and Ken “The Mouse ” McFadden, there were some seriously lean times for the Cleveland State Men’s College Basketball team. From Mike Boyd to the disastrous Rollie Massimino hire to Mike Garland, the program was headed in the wrong direction.
Enter Gary Waters.
The former head coach at Kent State came back to Ohio after a failed stint at Rutgers, never an easy place to win in the loaded Big East. Waters arrived in Cleveland in 2006 with a plan to get the Vikings back to the top of the Horizon League and he has done just that. He enters his seventh season piloting the Vikes, where he has gone 122-82. Most importantly, Waters has taken CSU to four postseason appearances, including the school’s second NCAA Tournament bid where they upset fourth-seeded Wake Forest in the first round.
All of this has added up to Waters getting extended by the school late yesterday for seven more years.
In a press release, CSU President Ronald Berkman praised the veteran coach:
“Coach Waters is a highly respected leader whose teams excel on and off the basketball court. Coach Waters fully expects his students-athletes to give nothing less in the classroom then they give on the basketball court. We are grateful that Coach Waters has made the commitment to realize his goal of building a storied basketball program at CSU.”
The new-look Vikings start their season tonight at the Wolstein Center against Grambling. This is supposed to be a rebuilding year for CSU with the losses of mainstays Jeremy Montgomery, Tre Harmon, Aaron Pogue, and D’Aundrey Brown, but there is still a lot of young talent on-hand. Only one starter returns from last year’s group – Tim Kamczyc – but Waters brings back PF Anton Grady who could have a metoric rise as the featured frontcourt scorer from the Vikings.
Grady has the chance to be a first-team All-Horizon League player. Think of the jump Thomas Robinson made at Kansas last year. You could see something similar from the uber-talented Grady. Back in October, NBC Sports lead college basketball writer Rob Dauster listed his 15 Players with breakout potential nationally. Here is what he said about Grady:
Cleveland State head coach Gary Waters has called Anton Grady his future, and he’s right. He was incredibly productive — 8.5 points, 6.4 boards, 1.4 blocks, the team lead in offensive and defensive rebounding percentages — in limited minutes as a freshman, and with so much of Cleveland State’s production from last season graduating, Grady will have plenty of opportunities. Even without Butler in the league, the Horizon has quite a bit of talent. Grady might be the best player in the league.
The 6-7 Kamzyc will be counted on again to provide not only leadership, but three-point shooting as well. He hit 46% from deep last season. “He’s the iron man,” said Waters. “We’re going to ask him to score a little more this year.”
Rotation players SF Marlin Mason, PG Charles Lee, and PF Luda N’daye return to give Waters experience.
After giving up a redshirt season in mid-season, Mason spent time in and out of Waters’s dog house last year but found himself on the floor at the end of big games late in the season. However, this will be his first big chance as a major contributor.
Lee spent plenty of time running the CSU offense last season as the backup to Montgomery and the first guard off the bench. Waters says he is ready to take the lead full time. “I’m giving him the ball,” Waters said. “He’s played in some big games. The biggest thing for him last year was getting adjusted to the physicality of the game. That boy got beat up.”
Watch out for under the radar returnee PF/C Devin Long and Freshman swingman Junior Lomomba, who Waters has raved about this preseason.
Said the coach: “He’s major piece of the puzzle that glues everything to-gether. He uses his strength and athletic ability to make plays on offense, while his length allows him to guard any position on the perimeter. He’s as good a freshman as there is coming into this league.”
The Vikings were picked to finish fifth in the preseason poll with last year’s top two teams, Valparaiso and Detroit tabbed as #1 and #2. But with Waters at the helm, anything is possible.