Four out of the five starters from the 2011-12 basketball team did not return to Central Michigan after former head coach Ernie Zeigler’s firing.
That left new head coach Keno Davis in an interesting predicament. With only two players with any starting experience returning from the former coaching staff, Davis was able to go out and find the right starters, in his eyes, for his system.
In the exhibition against Lake Superior State and the opening regular-season game against Iowa, Davis started two point guards, two returners who saw time off the bench last season and a true freshman.
“We realized with such a young team that we needed to be able to handle the ball,” Davis said. “It’s nice to have two point guards start the game and give us a settling effect.”
Splitting the point guard position will be senior Kyle Randall and freshman Chris Fowler.
Randall played his first three seasons at UNC-Greensboro, where he graduated early during his time in Greensboro, N.C. In his time with the Spartans, he averaged around eight points a game and two assists.
Fowler, although listed as a freshman, has experience playing at IMG Academy in Florida, where he averaged 12 points and eight assists.
“Me and Kyle really feed off each other really well, because he’s more of a scoring point guard, where I’m a pass-first point guard, which is why we’re able to play together,” Fowler said. “We learn from one another everyday and feed off one another’s energy.”
One of the returning players from last season’s roster was sharp-shooting sophomore guard Austin Keel.
Keel played in 32 games last season and didn’t start in any but shot 31 percent from three-point range.
“He’s a true off-guard position and has been in that starting rotation,” Davis said. “When we use that first sub, it’s a minute in and at the three guard position to get a little more speed and size.”
Freshman forward John Simons is the lone freshman recruit from the previous staff and has found a spot in Davis’ starting five.
Simons brings height, as well as range on the floor, that can spread out defenses.
“He made a great choice being here at Central; this place really fits him, and his style fits in as well,” Davis said. “I’m really happy that the one signee from the previous staff was John.”
Coming in, Davis discovered quickly that his team is undersized. But after summer workouts, senior forward Zach Saylor rejoined the team and has given CMU the inside presence it desperately needed.
“When we had our August minicamp, we didn’t have Zach Saylor on the team, and I felt like, if we had somebody with size and strength, that it would not only help our defense and rebounding, but also be a great opportunity for a true post player to be able to play one-on-one inside,” Davis said.
Those are the five Chippewas who have started games this season; however, Davis said it’s not about who is out on the floor to start; it’s about minutes, and there are a few others coming off the bench who could start.
Players like freshman guard Derrick Richardson Jr. have earned starting minutes off the bench.
“We’ve probably got about eight guys right now who all deserve to start,” Davis said. “Richardson is definitely one of those eight guys right now, challenging for that starting rotation.”