Youth leads the way for new look in CMU’s Men’s basketball team

With only four returning players from last year's squad, CMU Men's basketball coach Keno Davis will have to be creative in order to implement the high scoring offense his teams are known for.

Archive photo of Keno Davis, originally published on April 23, 2012. (Sean O’Kon | Grand Central Magazine)

Ask new Central Michigan Men’s basketball coach Keno Davis what his attitude toward this season is and he will say one thing.

“Excited. I’m excited for this team, excited by our improvement. I’m just excited.”

Starting his first year as head coach for the Central Michigan Men’s team, Davis certainly doesn’t have an ideal framework to work with. With only four returning players from last year’s squad, Davis will have to be creative in order to implement the high-scoring offense his teams are known for.

“ I expect a team effort,” Davis said. “We don’t really have a star player to score a lot for us.”

Davis says he plans to institute a fast paced, transition based style of play to the team that will probably be the fastest in the MAC.

“We’re gonna shoot a lot of 3’s, and we’re gonna get up and down the court.”

The emphasis on shooters in Davis’ offense was one of the main reasons veteran wing player Austin Keel decided to return to CMU, after the firing of then coach Ernie Ziegler last season. Keel, a sophomore, says he’s ready to embrace a bigger role this year.

“His system favors shooters pretty heavily, so it was a no-brainer for me to return,” Keel said. “I’m ready to step up and fill the voids in leadership and in scoring.”

Another major issue facing the Chippewas is its youth, as they will look to gain significant playing time from several freshmen players.

“(The freshmen) are coming along real well, we’re trying to put some size on them for now,” said Keel.

Size looks to be a major issue for the Chippewas, as they return no true center and only one veteran big man to the team. Lacking a presence down low, they will be forced to rely on quickness and shooting to outscore teams. Davis has put extra emphasis on the team’s 3-point shooting as well as making foul shots — a major weakness of the team last season.

For these facets of the game to work, the Chippewas will rely heavily on the play of point guards, with transfer senior Kyle Randall and freshman Chris Fowler facilitating the offense.

“Chris (Fowler) and Kyle (Randall) will be key for us to spread the floor and find our shooters. We will look to them often to be our ‘generals’ on the floor,” said Davis.

The optimism about the offense is a necessity for the Chippewas, as they held very poor rankings in most offensive categories last season among Division I programs. Per ESPN statistics, CMU was ranked 325 in field goal percentage, 292 in points per game and 327 in assists per game.

The Chippewas shot 33 percent from the 3-point line and only 64 percent from the foul line, forfeiting many potential points. Fortunately, Davis brings an offensive-based mindset to CMU, and will look to fix the offensive woes of the past three seasons.

Davis says he has a lot of confidence in the team’s ability to compete this season, despite the group’s youth and inexperience.

“I don’t see a single game on the schedule where I can stop and say ‘we won’t win this game.’ We’re not afraid of anybody and I feel we can compete with anyone on our schedule,” Davis said.

Ultimately, Davis will need to make a strong showing in the first few games of this season and produce some wins for a program where wins have been lacking in recent years. Whether they win with offense or defense, with veterans or freshmen, this team can make a very strong, positive statement and also win the support of its fans by starting off the season well.

The Chippewas kick off the season Nov. 7 in an exhibition game against Lake Superior State University at home.