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Wednesday, July 23, 2014
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Published: Monday, 1/20/2014 - Updated: 6 months ago

Tough transition for Toledoans

Rogers teammates on losing streak at Bethune-Cookman

BY DONALD EMMONS
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Rod Martin, center, was responsible for bringing, from left, Clemmye Owens, Tony Kynard, Maurice Taylor, and Ricky Johnson to Bethune-Cookman. Owens and Kynard went to Rogers. Taylor is a Libbey graduate. Johnson is from Akron. Rod Martin, center, was responsible for bringing, from left, Clemmye Owens, Tony Kynard, Maurice Taylor, and Ricky Johnson to Bethune-Cookman. Owens and Kynard went to Rogers. Taylor is a Libbey graduate. Johnson is from Akron.
BETHUNE-COOKMAN UNIVERSITY Enlarge

The losses continue to mount for Bethune-Cookman University.

The Wildcats had already reached double-digit defeats barely halfway through their schedule.

For 2013 Rogers graduates Clemmye Owens and Tony Kynard, it’s not the kind of experience they were accustomed to as four-year letterwinners. Winning almost seemed like a way of life for the duo, who helped lead the Rams to the state tournament two of their last three years.

So far, winning times haven’t carried over into their freshman season at the historic black college located in Daytona, Fla.

Bethune-Cookman (2-17) is on a 16-game losing streak. The Wildcats hope to put that to rest today at South Carolina State.

Admittedly, Owens and Kynard have dealt with the adjustments of playing at the college level on a team that’s struggled to garner wins.

“We’re playing twice as much as we did in high school, and it’s a faster-paced game,” Owens said. “The people are bigger and stronger. It’s a very big difference.”

Kynard, who was quicker than most guards he faced during his final two years at Rogers, has found the transition far more challenging.

“The competition is better, and it’s more thinking required,” Kynard said. “You learn more. In high school, you just go out and play.”

Despite the losing, Owens and Kynard — the only two freshmen on the Wildcats’ roster — are gaining plenty of experience on the court.

Owens, a 6-foot-1 shooting guard, ranks second on the team in scoring (9.9) and minutes played (26.8). He leads the team with 27 steals.

Kynard, a 6-1 point guard, is averaging 5.2 points and a team-best 2.6 assists. He ranks fourth on the team in minutes played (19.9).

Associate head coach Rod Martin was responsible for getting the former Rams to Bethune-Cookman. Martin, a Toledo native, recruited them and sold them on the idea of helping turn around a program that has only one senior this season.

Martin, who also brought Libbey graduate Maurice Taylor (6-3 junior guard) and Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary graduate Ricky Johnson (5-9 junior guard) to Bethune-Cookman, has been pleased with what Owens and Kynard have been able to do.

However, he believes both have plenty of room for improvement.

“It’s a difficult dynamic with freshmen coming in because they face players just as talented,” Martin said. “[Owens and Kynard] don’t have the experience, but they compete.”

The longtime backcourt mates led the Rams to a Division I state runner-up finish nearly a year ago, losing 76-67 in the final to Mentor. They also reached the D-II state semifinals as sophomores, losing 68-67 to Dayton Marshall.

Bethune-Cookman teammate Johnson was a member of the Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary team that won the state championship that season by defeating Marshall in the title game.

Such memories from their high school pasts have allowed for the four Ohioans to share a common bond.

Taylor (5.5 points), who played at Kilgore Junior College before transferring to Bethune-Cookman, recalls days of playing pickup games at City Park against Owens and Kynard.

“It’s been great,” he said. “It’s just like being at home. I’ve got people with me who are from Ohio.”

The Wildcats, who are members of the Division I Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC), spent most of the first half of the season playing on the road. They’ve suffered defeats at Akron (84-56), Youngstown State (71-59), Detroit (73-53), and Northern Illinois (65-51).

Despite those losses, the Midwest contests allowed the four Ohioans to perform in front of family and friends. Those road games were particularly special for Owens and Kynard, who are away from home for the first time.

The only wins were a 91-74 victory over Trinity Baptist to open the season and a 98-55 win over Trinity College in November.

Yet the newest Wildcats haven’t allowed for the string of losses to dominate their psyche. They believe better days are ahead.

Contact Donald Emmons at: demmons@theblade.com, 419-724-6302, or on Twitter @DemmonsBlade



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