YPSILANTI —- According to Eastern Michigan University men’s basketball coach Charles Ramsey this basketball season is puzzling and it is taking more time to find the right pieces to place in the right space and get a better picture of this team.
“Play hard and play smart, we have had too many breakdowns, things we have scouted coaches have done a good job but we are not executing,” Ramsey said after Monday night defeat against Valparaiso University at the Lou Henson Tournament being played at Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan. “Other than the record I do not believe we are that bad but the record says we are that bad.”
Ramsey is just getting into the middle of his sixth year at Eastern Michigan University and his program is developing but it is a slow process and according to Ramsey the process is an exercise of patient.
Like a poor jigsaw puzzle the picture is a challenge because there are too many missing pieces. The Eagles are suffering this season because of not having a dominate post player and a point guard with playing experience.
Last season the Eagles finished the season with an overall record 17-15 and let the West Division title of the Mid-American Conference slip right through their hands but the Eagles had a player that served as the team’s heart, a player that the team’s soul and another player that played with an emotion that could bring the Convocation Center crowd to their collective feet.
There was no question about it, point guard Carlos Medlock last season made the Eagles come alive, like a heart, he pumped life into the offense and lead the team on the defense end and when the Eagles needed a boost Medlock provided that spark, if Ramsey needed a coach on the floor he had to look no farther than to Medlock.
Last season’s soul for the Eagle belonged to post player Justin Dobbins; what he provided is an ingredient that is sorely missing from this year’s squad.
Last season Dobbins gave the Eagles a character on the court and his blue-collar style of playmaking provided the Eagles a swaggered that nobody in the league could match; he matured and grew stronger with every game played by the Eagles.
The emotional leader last season is still this year’s emotional leader, senior power forward Brandon Bowdry, he injects his emotion on the floor but sometime his emotion is so raw and it over flow and he looks like at times he is out of control but he says he likes to leave nothing to question on the court especially his effort.
“I exert all of my emotion on the court,” Bowdry said. “I look forward to being the bully on the court. I am an all around player. Things you want to do-I do!”
It is evident for the Eagles to have any kind of success Bowdry needs a lot more help this season because the opposition have scouted the Eagles and know about Bowdry’s talent and they provide in front of him the best defender that team has to offer.
It is simple basketball knowledge – if your opposition is double teaming a player then you find the open player, during the Lou Henson Tournament the Eagles passed up too many open shots and tried to force the ball into Bowdry but because the opposition would sag in front of Bowdry mistakes and turnovers occurred but Bowdry fought through a lot of screens and muggings that could be reported as a crime somewhere else but he walked off the floor Monday evening with his 29th career double-double.
The following evening Bowdry walked off of the court with his 30th double-double but with a victory, the Eagles second win of the season.
So far this season Ramsey’s answer at point guard is a junior college transfer from New Jersey, Darrell Lampley and he is sharing the duties at the point with another transfer student from Southeast Missouri State University Derek Thompson.
Lampley this season has made 11 appearance and started seven times for the Eagles but for Ramsey Lampley performance is still a project. Lampley is averaging six points but he has made 21 turnovers.
Thompson is the second option at the point for Ramsey, Thompson played his high school ball in Detroit and went to Southeast Missouri State University but transfer to Eastern Michigan University and filled an appeal to the NCAA for a hardship and his appeal was granted to play for the Eagles.
Thompson is averaging eight points in nine appearance but he has committed 15 turnovers.
What Bowdry and the Eagles need is for Jamell Harris, Jay Higgins and Matt Balkema to take the responsibility of playing better and giving the support that Ramsey is looking for and remove the weight off of Bowdry’s back.
Harris is a swing type of player he can play down low on the block but is also athletic to play out on the wing, he stands 6-9 but is too quite of a force. He make too many mistakes around the basket which give the opponents a chance to get into the transition game and score quick baskets.
Harris is a good leaper and should get to rebounds but too many times a big rebound that could change the momentum slips through his grasp.
Ramsey says that getting rebounds is about desire, working hard and being committed to getting the ball.
Higgins is a senior that plays on the opposite side of Bowdry and should provide as excellent counter punch for the Eagle offense but there are too many time that Higgins simply disappears from the floor and his defense lacks commitment.
Higgins played last season he knows the emotion felt after the emotional loss at the Mid-American Conference Tournament in Cleveland against the University of Akron.
Balkema played last season primarily coming off of the bench replacing Dobbins on the floor and he witnessed Dobbins’ effort on the court during the game and in practice he has seen what hard work can do for a team.
Balkema is a space eater and he should be able to play as his large 6-10 body frame will allow but too many times his shot fall short and his ability to grab and hold onto a rebound goes bouncing by him another chance to play large slips through his hands.
Balkema should provide a third option in the Eagle offense but like the rest of the squad he seems to disappear from the floor and if Ramsey is expecting a stop Balkema should be able to deliver but like other Eagles his ability to play defense seems to be like the air – you know it is there but it is invisible.
There is no question that Ramsey can coach the game of basketball and he is respected by his colleagues.
“We played them yesterday and his kids never gave up,” Valparaiso University basketball coaching legend Homer Drew said Tuesday night before his game at the Lou Henson Tournament. “We had a comfortable lead but they hit some shots, they are going to get better and Ramsey has done a good job.”
“Coach Ramsey does a great job,” Rochester College coach Garth Pleasant who has won four small college championships said about Ramsey after his team was defeated by the Eagles.
The puzzle pieces are in place at Eastern Michigan University and it is up to the players to be able to make those pieces fit and put this season together.
About the Author
Written by Mel Suiter
Graduated from Eastern Michigan University in 2002 and have been working as a beat writer for The Ypsilanti Courier covering Eastern Michigan University football and men's basketball during my school career and after graduation. I like the Mid-American Conference and the rest of the mid-major conferences.