Who's gone, who's back and what's next: A look at Central Michigan's 2020-21 basketball roster
Central Michigan began Mid-American Conference play winning six of its first eight games. It rolled to the top spot in the West Division, beating down conference heavyweight Bowling Green on Feb. 4 to stamp its status as a contender within the conference.
Then, the struggles began. The Chippewas lost 10 of their final 11 games to finish the season with a 14-18 mark overall and 7-11 in MAC play. A team with four senior starters struggled to finish games down the stretch and saw its season end in the first round of the conference tournament, far earlier than anyone in the locker room wanted it to.
Now, those senior leaders are gone.
Gone is David DiLeo, the top 3-point shooter in both conference and school history. Gone are guards Kevin McKay and Dallas Morgan, both high-level scorers. Gone is Rob Montgomery, a forward who was leaned on to contribute as a five-man though being vastly undersized for the position. Senior-to-be Romelo Burrell is also gone, having announced last week that he will enter the transfer portal.
When the season rolls around, coach Keno Davis will need to replace the production that these graduates provided. Here’s a look at what his team would look like if the season started today, as well as what each player can bring to the team:
Devontae Lane – Senior Guard
2019-20 stats: 29 games/27 starts, 9.1 PPG, 3.4 APG, 3 RPG
In his first season with the Chippewas, Lane stepped into the void left by graduated point guard Larry Austin Jr. Though not nearly the offensive threat that Austin was around the rim, Lane led the offense and did a good job of putting the ball in the hands of playmakers like DiLeo, McKay and Morgan. He could also get to the basket when he needed to.
Lane also led the team in turnovers, which can be expected when you handle the ball as much as he did last season. He’s established himself as a solid ball handler who can get the ball in the hands of teammates, he now needs to take the next step as a scorer.
A season ago, he shot 35 percent on his 34 3-point attempts. He’s likely going to have to take more shots next season, given that each of last season’s top four scorers are all gone. With that said, the need for him as a scorer could be lighter if the Chippewas are able to reel in transfer guard Drew Lowder. Should Lowder decide to come to CMU and be granted immediate eligibility, Lane will be able to remain as a pass-first facilitator.
If Lane can establish himself as a shooting threat, he can become a solid performer within the conference. The team will go where he leads them, considering that he is the top returning performer.
Travon Broadway Jr. – Senior Guard
2019-20 stats: 32 games/14 starts, 7.1 PPG, 1.1 APG, 2.8 RPG
If the season began today, here’s the team's starting off-guard. Broadway, in his first year with the Chippewas, started 14 games including a handful in place of Morgan and Lane, who both dealt with injuries. Broadway was one of five players to play in all 32 games last season and would bring valuable experience a starting lineup that may not have much next season.
Broadway is a long, rangy defender who can guard three positions and cause problems for opponents. He ranked 16th in the conference in steals, using his long frame to get into passing lanes and create turnovers. Defensively, the sky is the limit for Broadway.
The intriguing part of Broadway’s game is on the offensive side of the ball. He averaged double digits at each of his first two collegiate stops but struggled to score at times over the course of the season. Broadway played his best ball in a two-game stretch against Akron and Eastern Michigan, scoring 17 points in each and flashing a potent ability to play at both ends of the floor.
He shot just 38 percent from the field and 32 percent from beyond the arc. For Broadway to become an all-conference level player, he’s going to have to improve those numbers. The defensive skills are there but the offense must improve. The good news for him is that he’ll be given every opportunity to do so, should he stick around next season.
Deschon Winston – Senior Guard
2019-20 stats: 32 games/seven starts 5.9 PPG, 2.3 APG, 2.2 RPG
Winston, who is another player at his third school in three years, became a good piece off the bench for the Chippewas. He came to Central Michigan with a year of Division I experience at California, where he played 25 games, and he was able to nestle himself comfortably into the backup point guard role.
Winston did start seven games, including one in the backcourt alongside Lane. The two don’t particularly gel well together given that they are both facilitating point guards, but that pairing can still be effective.
Winston will likely return to the backup point guard role in 2020-21, however he may see an extended amount of minutes. If he’s able to become a catch and shoot threat, he can earn minutes at the off-guard position and play more alongside Lane.
He can also help the team by being a bit more assertive off the bench. In the Chippewas road win over Western Michigan, Winston filled in for an injured Lane for most of the second half and scored a season high 18 points. If he can turn into a potent scorer off the bench, Winston can help his team offset the loss of a player like Morgan.
Kevin Hamlet – Senior Forward
2019-20 stats: 23 games, 1.6 PPG, 1.5 RPG, 6 MPG
After redshirting last season, Hamlet worked his way into the rotation in a marginal role. Playing just six minutes per game, Hamlet was a third option off the bench for Davis in the frontcourt but was unable to get anything going from a scoring perspective.
In his two stops prior to Central Michigan, Hamlet shot above 40 percent, including a freshman season at Polk State College in which he shot 42 percent from beyond the arc. At 6-7, Hamlet is similarly built to Burrell and more fit for a role at the three, however minutes at the wing position will likely be scarce.
With Burrell's departure, Hamlet will be counted on to contribute off the bench. The Chippewas are light in the frontcourt, so he will likely see an uptick in minutes barring a late roster addition.
PJ Mitchell – Sophomore Guard
2019-20 stats: 15 games, 1.7 PPG, 43% FG, 17% 3FG
After redshirting in his first year on campus, Mitchell came into his second season primed to contend for a spot in the rotation. He was unable to beat out Winston for the backup point guard spot and was relegated to the bench. Mitchell played in just 15 games last season, averaging just over four minutes per game.
It was tough to gauge Mitchell’s talent given the limited sample size. He has yet to play meaningful minutes in a game but showed flashes of his talent in a 10-point outburst against Siena Heights. However, it’s likely that his limited playing time has to do with not being ready for the flow of the college game.
This is a big offseason for Mitchell. The Chippewas are bringing in a freshman guard, Ra’Shaad Weekly-McDaniels, and will likely scour the transfer market for another. If Mitchell wants to get minutes, he will need to assert himself in the weight room and in practice. Given that both Winston and Lane return, it will be a steep climb to an increased role for Mitchell.
The question is if he’ll want to try to make that climb at Central Michigan or bet on himself elsewhere.
Matt Beachler – Junior guard
Career stats: 69 games, 3.1 PPG, 31% 3FG
Though not dealing with an injury, Beachler redshirted during the 2019-20 season. Known as a good shooter, Beachler could’ve given the Chippewas the shooting they needed in key moments during their nine-game losing streak. For whatever reason, Beachler did not suit up.
With Morgan gone, there is a scoring role that Beachler fits and can fill. However, Davis brought in Tarleton State transfer Preston Enloe, who has a similar play style to Beachler, to fill this role. There will be a competition for that bench sharpshooter role and if Beachler doesn’t win it, he may elect to move on rather than waste another year on the bench.
Preston Enloe – Junior guard
Career stats: 51 games, 5.4 PPG, 41% 3FG
Chippewa fans who didn’t come to the Maroon and Gold scrimmage haven’t gotten a glimpse at Enloe, who sat out the season due to NCAA transfer rules. He comes to Mount Pleasant after two seasons at Tarleton State, where he established himself as a knockdown outside shooter.
As mentioned earlier, Enloe and Beachler will likely battle for minutes in the backcourt off the bench. He has the benefit of having been brought in recently, so there’s something that Davis likes about his play style. If he can hit shots from deep as consistently as he did at Tarleton State, he’ll get minutes for the maroon and gold.
Caleb Hodgson – Freshman forward
Redshirted during the 2019-20 season
On multiple occasions last season, Hodgson would come to pre-game shootarounds drenched in sweat, having just finished an intense workout. The freshman forward redshirted last season but has a chance to get significant minutes in the upcoming season due to Montgomery’s graduation.
Hodgson is 6-10, the tallest player in the program. He gives the Chippewas much-needed size inside and there is talk of his ability to shoot on the perimeter as well. If he is able to contribute as a rim protector next season, he could be a difference maker for the Chippewas early in his career.
Dylan Jergens – Freshman guard
Redshirted during the 2019-20 season
Jergens is a walk-on and likely won’t see playing time next season. He was a prolific scorer in high school and can shoot well from outside, but he is still severely undersized. There is potential for him to become a contributor for the Chippewas down the road.
Demarcus Demonia – Junior forward
2018-19 stats: 18.2 PPG, 8,1 rebounds (Allegany College of Maryland)
Central Michigan, meet Demarcus Demonia.
After spending two seasons at Allegany College of Maryland, Demonia sat out last season having excersised his junior college eligibility and will now come to Mount Pleasant as the jewel of Davis’ 2020 recruiting class. Demonia was a 1st-team JUCO All-American in 2018-19.
He is proficient in all aspects of the game. He’ll likely join the starting lineup immediately in place of one of the Chippewas’ four departed seniors and has potential to become a star. Demonia rebounds the ball well, which is something CMU has struggled with in the past.
There’s always the question of how he’ll adjust to the Division I game. It’s a big jump from the JUCO ranks to DI ball, but having been an All-American, he’ll likely have a flatter learning curve than most. Demonia is an exciting addition to the roster who possesses star-caliber talent.
For a glimpse of what Demonia can bring to the Chippewas, click here.
Ralph Bissainthe – Junior forward
2019-20 stats: 31 games, 7.7 PPG, 3.0 RPG (Florida Southwestern College)
Bissainthe has Division I experience, having spent two seasons at the University of Illinois-Chicago. He transferred to Florida Southwestern College after his time at UIC and played a significant role. He will contribute right away for the Chippewas, it’s just a question of what role he’ll be in.
He doesn’t have great outside shooting numbers, but his overall field goal percentage last season hovered around 45 percent. He’s a decent shooter who can become a slasher, much in the mold of McKay, within the offense next season. If he can become a lockdown defender as well, he can crack the starting lineup.
Rashad Weekly-McDaniels – Freshman guard
Weekly-McDaniels is a three-star point guard recruit and the only true freshman in Davis’ 2020 class. He’s a pass-first point guard who can also create for himself. As far as the upcoming season, however, he’ll have to fight for minutes.
With Lane and Winston locked into the starting and backup point guard roles, the third point guard role will be up for grabs between Mitchell and Weekly-McDaniels. Davis will likely decide to run with Mitchell as the third-stringer and have Weekly-McDaniels take a redshirt year.