Marshall Sees Bright Future Ahead for CCSU’s Strange Season

Ryan Jones, Managing Editor

Last year, Central Connecticut men’s basketball had one of the youngest teams in the country with seven freshmen. This year, the Blue Devils will not have a single rookie on the roster.

This step back from the youth movement has its reasons, of course. With such an inexperienced roster last year, CCSU was only able to pick up four wins throughout the season.

For sure, there were nights when the young stars for Central were firing on all cylinders. Their athleticism is something that can not be questioned after watching some of the Blue Devils jump out the gym, but their decision making kept them out of a number of games. In some ways that was to be expected. There were a lot of players getting their first feels for the speed of college basketball. Now with a year experience under their belts, Marshall is very excited for the future of Blue Devil basketball.

“The focal point is that we are definitely a much better team than we showed last year,” Marshall said. “We’re ready for this year.”

This year, the Blue Devils will be returning four starters as opposed to one last year. Sophomores Myles Baker, Greg Outlaw and Jamir Reed all averaged over 20 minutes per game in their freshmen campaign, and look further develop their games which showed vast potential last year.

The importance of junior guard Ian Krishnan on this Blue Devils team can not be understated. After missing most of the first half of the season, Krishnan lit things up for CCSU last year. He led the team in scoring with 12.5 per game, there were some nights it seemed as if he could pull up from anywhere on the court and knock a shot down. With an expanded role this season, Krishnan has the potential to have a breakout year for the Blue Devils.

In an interview with the Recorder, Marshall praised the work ethic of his players throughout what can only be described as a chaotic offseason.

“With the toughness of the COVID and how difficult it made it to do things, [the team] came back great,” Marshall said. “They came back in great shape, got their mind right and definitely came backed focused. Their bodies changed, their intelligence for the game changed and it has definitely had its effects on the court.”

The challenges the pandemic has brought with it can not be understated. More than ever before, players and coaches have to be focused on one game at a time. The schedule is something that can be changed at any time, and because of the smaller size of a basketball team compared to football, one positive test will shut down all basketball operations for weeks.

Flexibility is a top commodity for teams this year, something Marshall very clearly understands and is preaching to his players this season.

You got no choice but to have [flexibility]. It’s one of those years that as a team and as a coach you gotta come to your principles and stick to your principles no matter what.”

For Marshall, these principles have shined in a clear way so far. When asked to define the team in a word, Marshall pointed to tenacity in describing his guys.

“They’ve been extremely tenacious throughout this offseason,” Marshall said. “It’s been very tough on these players, yet they have come to work hard. Their mindsets are set on trying to do the right thing.”

The right thing Marshall refers to is two fold this year. On top of getting ready to play in games, Marshall pointed out that staying healthy is another factor at the forefront of everyone’s minds.

“We can talk about what we want for this season,” Marshall said “but if one of us gets it it halts our season for a couple weeks. As long as we’re doing the right thing, we’ll be fine. Not only the players but the coaches as well, it’s going to take a collective effort to get through this.”

Throughout all of the sports being played so far in the pandemic, there has of course been one glaring component missing: fans. Leagues like the NBA have ushered in virtual fans while the NFL and NCAA football has actually worked with putting fans in the stands, albeit it socially distanced and only in a select few states.

The Northeast Conference basketball schedule is not yet official for the Blue Devils, but everyone is in general agreement that its focus will be reducing the travel done by teams.  With that being said, it can be assumed that there will not be any cheering fans for the foreseeable future in New Britain, however Marshall is not worried on its impact on players.

“I’m sure it will be difficult for some of the kids, but I think it will also be a lot like AAU where there aren’t many fans watching,” Marshall said. “It will be something to get used to, but it’s not like we’re the only school to go through it. It will be just like practice but with another team there,” Marshall added with a laugh.