November 14, 2009

Evolution of a Leader

The box score from Kent State's 69-66 win over Samford on Friday didn't tell the whole story about senior Chris Singletary. There was nothing shocking about his game-high 19 points, seven rebounds, four assists, three steals and 9-of-10 shooting from the free throw line. That's the Chris Singletary Kent State fans have watched since he was named to the Mid-American Conference All-Freshman Team in 2007.

But, on Friday, it wasn't just Singletary's statistics that helped the Flashes open the 2009-10 season with a win; his leadership in the locker room and on the court also played a role.

"It was reminiscent of Mike Scott," said Kent State head coach Geno Ford. "He was making all the gritty plays and then the vocal leader stuff. But, with Chris it has to be consistent."

And for Singletary, that leadership might be his biggest contribution ever to the Kent State basketball program. That's quite a transformation for a player with multiple suspensions and legal transgressions to his credit.

I'm not sure when the actual transformation occurred, but I know it showed its head in the early days of practice leading up to the 2009-10 season.

Under the watchful eye of strength and conditioning coach Bob Lemieux, two freshmen players, thanks to a typical freshman mistake, were performing additional conditioning drills on the M.A.C. Center floor after an October practice.

While most of the other Kent State players had retired to the locker room, Singletary remained to encourage the young freshmen as they conducted a series of Plate Pushes. Each repetition required the players to push a 45-pound rubber plate the length of the court and back. It's no easy task, and most players consider the drill a form of evil torture.

A shirtless Singletary hovered over his new teammates shouting words of encouragement. His flexing abdominal muscles served as proof that Singletary was no stranger to the drill.

When the freshmen neared fatigue, Singletary grabbed his own 45-pound plate and began pushing. But, he wasn't just pushing the plate. He was pushing the freshmen.

On Friday against Samford, he pushed his teammates in other ways.

When the Flashes trailed the Bulldogs, 34-31, at halftime. He used his words to encourage them.

"In the locker room we all just kind of looked at each other for a minute," said redshirt junior Rodriquez Sherman. "Chris did a great job of leading us, telling us that 20 minutes was over and there is 20 more minutes. We've been here before and we just have to come out and play harder. Just get it on defense and let the offense take care of itself."

Then, in the second half, he led by example. He played hard on both ends of the floor and remained a vocal leader. The Flashes pulled away in the second half only to hold onto their lead late in the game.

It was Singletary that pulled down a rebound with 12 seconds left to play that kept Samford from making it a one-possession game.

It wasn't always that way for Singletary.

He was no stranger to disciplinary action, both by his basketball coaches and the local police department.

But, he's a senior now. This is his last chance and the early returns couldn't be better.

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