With the 2016-2017 men’s basketball season underway, Slippery Rock’s “Rock Rowdies” are transitioning from the gridiron to the hardwood to cheer on a team they will barely even recognize.
Rock head coach Kevin Reynolds brought in 10 new faces to his 12-man roster for the upcoming season. Only one player that Reynolds brought in did not come from a junior college.
Sophomore guard Dwight Whitlock transferred from Mercyhurst University, the 2015-2016 PSAC champions.
Five transfers from Marshalltown Community College (Iowa), one from Potomac state college of West Virginia, another from Community College of Beaver County and two more from Collby Community College (Kan.) and Lehigh-Carbon Community College are the results of Reynolds’ non-traditional strategy of recruiting.
“We knew when we took the job what the parameters were,” Reynolds said. “We knew we would have to recruit in an unconventional fashion. They recruited in a conventional fashion for a long time and it wasn’t working, so when we took the job we knew we had to make some changes.”
Senior guards Jordan Marrow and Naquil Jones are the only returners from the previous season. Neither were impact players.
Marrow averaged 3.4 points per game and grabbed 27 rebounds in the 20 games he played, while Jones put up similar numbers in fewer games, averaging 6.2 points per game and grabbing 22 rebounds in 12 games.
Marrow said he plans to step up in whatever position he is needed this year.
“I’m a senior,” Marrow said. “We got 10 new players, and I’m just trying to lead by example.”
Even though SRU is already two preseason and three regular season games into the season, Reynolds said he has not picked a consistent starting five yet. He said his players earn it in practice and have to step up. Reynolds marks that as one of a couple of factors he will be looking for to see a player find his way to a major role on the court.
After showing up to practice, Reynolds lists three other aspects that he is looking for in his players: buying into the program, developing team chemistry and what he refers to as “grit.”
“You got to be gritty,” Reynolds said. “You got to be able to grind it out when it’s not your day.”
As unknown as the team is to themselves, they are even more unknown to the conference. Slippery Rock was placed close to the bottom of the preseason rankings at seventh, edging out only Clarion and CalU. Reynolds said that they were picked at the bottom because they had one of their weaker seasons during his nine-year tenure.
Reynolds and The Rock went 15-13 last season, its worst since the 2009-2010 season when they went 15-12.
“I think people see that and say, ‘Slippery Rock, that is why we are voting you seventh out of nine’,” Reynolds said.
But with a fresh start and some new faces, Reynolds and his team have a chance to redeem themselves. They have already gotten off to a great start.
After losing their first game to no. 7 Wheeling Jesuit in the PSAC-MEC Challenge, The Rock came back the next day to split the weekend and defeat Shepherd University. They would continue the winning streak at their first home game in a dominating victory over Ohio University (Eastern).
Hoping to keep their winning streak going, The Rock will play their fourth and fifth games this weekend on the road against PSAC East opponents Shippensburg University and Kutztown University.
Though they are off to a good start, it is still very early in the season. Only time will tell if Reynolds’ nearly brand new team was a brilliant style of recruiting and will surprise the conference, or if they belong exactly where they were placed in the rankings.