After two games, Cleveland State's defense is a work in progress.
Last season, CSU's stingy defense allowed 59.5 points per game (third in Horizon) and held teams to shoot 41.1 percent (fourth) from the field.
In two games this season, CSU's defense is giving up an uncharacteristic 73 points per game (seventh) and allowing teams to shoot 58.8 percent (10th) from the field.
CSU head coach Gary Waters says the Vikings need to do a better job defensively in the paint. "Right now guys are not doing their rotations because they're unaware, or they don't know (where they are supposed to be)," Waters said. "Our defense is a complex defense because it's not a man-to-man defense. It's a man on the ball and everybody is helping as support players. They rotate and move."
Waters said CSU had the same problems two years ago when last year's senior class were first starting to learn the defensive rotations. "By the end of the year they got their rotation down, and they were playing better. Then they had another year," Waters said.
One reason Waters says the Vikings have struggled with their rotations is because there are no returning post players with any game experience from a year ago to tell the newcomers what they are supposed to do.
"Aaron Pogue hasn't played in almost two years. Nigel Ajere had to set out last season and couldn't practice with the team (as a non-qualifier). Jared Cunningham came from a junior college were they're taught to guard your man. And Kevin Anderson doesn't step up because he thinks he can block everything" said Waters.
Another reason Waters says the posts are struggling is because CSU has put an emphasis this season on a full-court press for 40 minutes, which took away some of the practice time normally spent on half-court defense.
"So what I'm probably going to do for this week is, I'm going to press, but after something. So we are not playing them straight man-to-man." Waters said. "Because I got to teach them all these things, and they got to get into the habit of doing all these things."
Heading into today's home game against Florida A & M (7 p.m.), Waters has issued a challenge to his players to cut CSU's defensive shooting percentage (58 percent) down 10 percent as a starting point.
So how would you know when CSU's players are finally starting to understand Waters' defensive rotation? "When you see a guy penetrates and a another guy steps up and gets him, and the other guy rotates and grabs the other guy," said Waters. "When you see them closer to the ball then they are to their man. Right now, we have four guys and Norris (Cole) locked up to their man."
News and Notes:
Ludovic Ndaye and Devon Long have signed national letters of intent with CSU during the early signing period. Ndaye, a 6-9, 220-pound power forward from Montreal, Quebec, has averaged 12.1 points and 6.2 rebounds per game through four games at Windwind Prep in Arizona. Long, a 6-8, 270-pound forward from Detroit Crockett Tech, averaged 18 points and 13 rebounds a game last season..... All five of CSU's seniors last year have graduated. J'Nathan Bullock and Cedric Jackson will get a chance to play in the NBA D-League this season. Bullock was a 6th-round draft pick by Albuquerque Thunderbirds, and Jackson was allocated to the Erie BayHawks, who are affiliated with the Cleveland Cavaliers. George Tandy and Chris Moore have signed pro contracts to play in Germany. And Renard Fields has entered a program with the FBI..... CSU will renew their rivalry with Kent State next season.