Basketball players make their college choices for multiple reasons, including coaching, the program’s success, and opportunities in academics and athletics.
And then there’s 6-foot-9 forward Danny Pippen, who decided to attend and play basketball at Kent State, so he could have more chances to visit his father, who is in prison in Ohio.
Pippen put himself on the radar while playing alongside Rocket Watts at Allen Academy in Detroit. He could rebound, block shots and score inside, as well as step out and hit the jumper.
Pippen, a junior, is showing those same traits at Kent State, where he is averaging 14 points and 6.7 rebounds. The Golden Flashes, who won the MAC championship in 2017 with Jaylin Walker (Romulus) earning MAC tournament MVP honors, have started 14-6 (4-3 MAC East).
In fact, it was Pippen who single-handedly made sure Kent State would come away with a 70-66 win over two-time defending MAC champion Buffalo Saturday, scoring the Golden Flashes’ final nine points, including a 3-pointer to pull them even at 64 with 45 seconds remaining, then making six free throws in the final 23.9 seconds.
Pippen has fully recovered from a knee injury that sidelined him during the entire 2018-19 season.
“My father is incarcerated in Ohio; I was trying to get closer to him,” Pippen said about his decision to play for Kent State. “I wasn’t really worried about playing since I knew I could play, so my decision was kind of based on going to see my father.”
Pippen has put on 20 pounds since high school and is at 225. He is hoping for a professional career and compares his game to that of Lakers 6-8, 220-pound power forward Kyle Kuzma from Flint.
“My goal is to play in the NBA,” Pippen said. “I’m 6-foot-9, have a wingspan of 7-foot-3, and to be able to shoot the ball in extended flow, that helps a lot. Look at the NBA in today’s game, it’s 3 and D. You have guys like Kyle Kuzma who I feel I play just like.”
Pippen is thrilled with his decision to play at Kent State.
“It’s definitely a program that will challenge you; if you’re too soft you won’t make it because it’s marathon,” Pippen said. “It prepares you for the next level because there is no soft love.
“Everybody comes in hungry as a freshman and you have to assess the situation to find out what you have to do to get on the floor. I had to rebound to get on the floor as a freshman, then as a sophomore I did a little more offensively, and now I do it all – I play both sides of the ball, rebound, shoot 3s, get to the rim.
“I feel we have a great shot at winning the MAC this year. We have knock down shooters, we have floor generals, we have rebounders, we have inside scoring, we have defenders. We have all the right tools.”
Pippen also has big post-playing career goals.
“I’m in educational studies right now, and I’m going to work in something to help the youth,” Pippen said. “I want to get back to Detroit and start youth centers and homeless shelters and stuff like that over there on Dexter and Collingwood, the area where I’m from.”
Roberts confident at Kent State
One of the shooters and defenders Pippen was talking about is 6-4 sophomore guard Anthony Roberts, who played at Detroit Henry Ford.
Roberts is averaging 12.9 points on 39.8 percent shooting from 3-point range.
Roberts said Henry Ford coach Ken Flowers got him ready for the college game. He attended Detroit Western his freshman and sophomore years, then transferred to Henry Ford his junior year.
“That’s my guy, Coach Flowers, I talk to him every day,” Roberts said. “He built my confidence up. He got me ready for the next level.”
At Kent State, Roberts says, “I love playing for Coach Sendy (Kent State head coach Rob Senderoff). He told me when you come in you’re either going to fight for your spot or back down, so I never backed down.”
Akron (16-4, 6-1) and Bowling Green (15-5, 6-1) sit atop the MAC East. Kent State handed Bowling Green its lone conference loss (79-61) back on Jan. 3 and will host Akron Friday (6:30, CBSSN).
McKay leads CMU in showdown
Kevin McKay (Warren De La Salle) is making sure Central Michigan (11-8, 4-2) stays in the hunt for the MAC West championship.
After missing the last few games due to an undisclosed injury, McKay returned to the lineup Saturday in Mt. Pleasant and helped the Chippewas defeat West-leading Ball State (11-8, 4-2) 71-66 to put themselves in a tie for the top spot.
McKay, who is among the top guards in the nation in field-goal percentage, scored 13 and had nine rebounds in 29 minutes, making 6-of-9 shots from the field.
McKay is now averaging 15.2 points and 6.3 rebounds, shooting 66.4 percent from the field.
Senior guard Dallas Morgan, who averages 13.6 points, led the Chippewas with 21 points, making 9-of-14 shots and 3-of-5 3-pointers. He scored seven straight points, including a 3-pointer, to give the Chips a 10-point cushion (68-58) with 1:22 left after Ball State pulled within 61-58.
CMU will play at Miami of Ohio (9-11, 2-5) Tuesday before a rival game Saturday at Western Michigan.
At the bottom
While Central Michigan is a contender, WMU (9-11, 2-5) and EMU (10-10, 0-7) are at the basement of the West.
WMU lost at Northern Illinois 56-52 Saturday, shooting just 33.3 percent from the field while being outrebounded by a 47-37 margin.
EMU lost at Miami 73-68 Saturday for its ninth loss in 10 games. It will host preseason MAC West favorite Toledo (11-9, 3-4) Saturday afternoon.