Preview: CMU men's basketball enters 2022 season with high hopes, new faces
An early end to the Mid-American conference tournament left Central Michigan men's basketball motivated heading into the 2022-23 season with a rebuilt roster.
The Chippewas officially kick off their season at Marquette on Thursday, Nov. 10 at 8 p.m.
“We are in this thing to you know, to compete for championships, whether it's the regular season MAC championship, or it's the conference tournament…,'' said second-year head coach Tony Barbee. “So, it's a challenge just to get to Cleveland in March for the conference tournament, and we were able to do that last year…it was a great step in year one. But now we've got loftier goals…we want to be in Cleveland and cut down the nets in March.”
CMU has five returning players including senior guard Brian Taylor, sophomore guard Kevin Miller, senior center Miroslav Stafl, sophomore center Nicolas Pavrette and junior forward Caleb Hodgson.
Miller, a mid-season breakout player earned All-MAC honorable mention and was named to the MAC All-Freshman team in 2021. He led the Chippewas last season in scoring averaging 13.1 points per game and assists with 139. Miller was named to this year's preseason All-MAC Second Team.
“I just want to be a leader on his team and just do everything he (Barbee) puts on my back, '' Miller said. “Like everything he puts on me, I'm gonna take accountability for it. And I'm just wanting to win and win everything this year.”
Taylor was another big part of the Chippewas success under the basket last season, averaging 8.2 points per game. He finished second on the team with a total of 21 blocks and 35 steals.
“You bring back Brian Taylor, who comes back as our second-leading scorer, second-leading rebounder coming back with an average 10.7 rebounds last year,” Barbee said. “And Nico Pavrette, the seven-footer from France who really came on late last year as a freshman…has really really grown. And then we got a lot of fantastic additions.”
Hoping to add experience to the roster, Barbee looked to the portal.
This year's transfers also bring something that the Chippewas seemed to have lacked in seasons prior, height. Two out of the three transfers stand above 6-foot-8.
Jesse Zarzuela, a junior guard, comes from Coppin State where he led in scoring and assists with 14.7 points per game and 3.3 assists per game. Right out of high school, Zarzuela spent time at Navarro Junior College, where he helped lead it to the NJCAA Division 1 Mid-South District Semifinals. As a freshman at NJC, he averaged 19.2 points per game. After a season at Navarro, Zarzuela played a season at Missouri State-West Plains Junior College averaging 22.8 points per game.
Detroit native, Carrington McCaskill is a junior forward from Henry Ford College. While at HFC, he was named Freshman of the Year, earned All-Defensive Team honors, and was the District Tournament Most Valuable Player for two years in a row.
As a freshman, McCaskill averaged 14.3 points per game and 9.1 rebounds. In his sophomore year, he averaged 13.9 points per game, 6.7 rebounds and blocked 49 shots.
Markus Harding, a 6-foot-10 sophomore center, is a transfer from Eastern Florida State College where he spent two years averaging 6.3 points per game. In his sophomore year he had a total of 99 rebounds.
“So, we got a great mix of incoming freshmen, junior college transfers and transfers from the portal to kind of fill out the roster and I think that blends well with our returners,” Barbee said.
In his first real season of recruiting at CMU, Barbee has added young faces from all over the world, including Finland, Canada, Texas, Arizona and Indiana.
In the backcourt, Reggie Bass, Amani Drummond, Emil Skytta and Max Majerle are entering their first year in college.
While freshmen forwards Josiah Sanders, Ola Ajiboye, and Caleb Atewe will step on the hardwood of McGuirk Arena for the first time.
“I think we've got a fantastic freshman class that we brought in, kind of highlighted by the Max Majerle name,” said Barbee. "But some other guys in here with Oli, and in Reggie Bass. So, we got some fantastic freshmen and Emil Skyetta from Finland is one of the best 17 and under players in the world.”
Not so new to McGuirk is Majerle, the son of CMU basketball legend Dan Majerle who played for CMU from 1984-88.
“It's going to be hard to beat him, he is a really great player," Majerle said. “But me and my dad are really competitive. So, I mean, of course that will definitely be there…and that's definitely something, I'm gonna try to break his records but you know he was really good here.”