YPSILANTI, Mich. —- Oh my nieces and nephews it is another road trip into the heart of the Mid-American Conference, so Uncle Mel stopped and gassed up the rusty but trusty mobile news vehicle, purchased a hot steamy cup of coffee before turning the vehicle toward the state of Ohio.
Like the Eastern Michigan University basketball team Uncle Mel is heading for the bright lights of the city that overlooks Interstate-75, Bowling Green, Ohio and to the home of the Falcons of Bowling Green State University.
Unfortunately for the Eagles, the sight of the endless pavement of the interstate that extends toward the horizon represents the basketball season it just goes on for a long time and there are plenty of stretches were it bend around a curve but it seems like that there is no merciful ending in sight.
Eastern Michigan University basketball coach Charles Ramsey is midway into his sixth season with a record of 64-110 and his march this season has not been favorable or filled with too many bright spots for his team.
There are many questions but the answers are as elusive as the Eagles offense. You know it is there but you just do not know when it will arrive.
The field goal percentage for the Eagle is unacceptable by Ramsey’s standard or by any other basketball coach.
The Eagles are ranked 11 of 12 teams in the league shooting a minuscule 38.7 percent from the floor compare that with best in league - Buffalo who is shooting an impressive 48.8 percent.
Understand the Eagles did lose their premier point guard from last season Carlos Medlock and center Justin Dobbins to graduation and those are two pairs of big shoes to fill but Ramsey believes he found the answer filling the space vacated by Medlock with Darrell Lampley.
Lampley stands 5-10 and is as tough as Medlock and he is grasping the philosophy of Ramsey’s offense and the defense but the process takes time and patients.
Ramsey said Lampley can be better player because he can shoot and he is expecting more results from Lampley, his best point production came back in November 27, 2010 against James Madison University scoring 15 points and against Ferris State University Lampely dished out a season high eight assist.
Ramsey’s biggest problem is finding a player that can eat up space and play with some sort of dominance in and around the basket.
Dobbins scored points in and around the basket and worked at pulling down rebounds but he also gave to the Eagles a personality.
There are three options for Ramsey filling the open spot left behind by Dobbins.
The first option for Ramsey is sophomore center from Euclid, Ohio Jamell Harris who is proving himself as prime time defender and possesses the uncanny art of blocking shots.
Earlier this season Harris set a Convocation Center record by swatting away seven shots put up by shooters from Madonna University back in November and he leads the Eagles this season with 47 rejections.
Harris reminds Uncle Mel of Dennis Rodman, Harris provide his team with the ability to play defense but his offense is no threat, he misses too many lay-ups and he seems to let key rebounds slip right through his hands.
Uncle Mel is not saying that Harris is not working hard or that he has no talent because he does and his biggest asset is that Harris can provide for his team is that he has a great deal of potential.
The biggest discovery this season for Ramsey is the hidden jewel on his bench the 6-10 junior Kamil Janton. He is from cold streets of Chicago via the vast snow covered planes of Tarnow, Poland.
Janton is a raw talent but like his team mates Harris he does have potential and recently at Toledo he stepped out of the shadow of the bench and onto the court. He played the best game of his Eastern Michigan University career, he scored 10 points and seven rebounds but the most important ingredient that Janton brought to the floor is attitude.
Ramsey says that Janton just works hard and he is an intelligent player during games situations and he also does the same thing at practices.
After the 74-67 defeat to Valparaiso University at the Lou Henson Tournament hosted by Oakland University center Matt Balkeman discovered that he had injured his hand during the game.
Balkeman started 10 games this season and is a space grabber, he stands 6-10 and is 285 pounds, he possesses the size but to say he is quick under the basket would be giving Balkeman the benefit of the doubt.
Like his team mate Harris too many bunny shots do not find their way through the hoop and score, too many key rebounds seem to dodge the grasp of Balkeman and he just seems to be out of position when Ramsey is depending on him to make a difference on the defense.
Uncle Mel knows that in the Mid-American Conference, the point guard is an important piece to any team but having an option inside and in the middle is essential – a go to guy that is strong both on the offense and on the defense end of the court.
Eastern Michigan University power forward Brandon Bowdry needs scoring help and Harris, Janton and Balkeman are young men that should be able to step up and give the Eagles some character, personality and points.
The point guard situation is in the good and capable hands of Lampley who coming along this season for Ramsey and for the Eagles offense and defense, his improvement with his skills is daily.
If the Eagles can get any kind of consistency from the middle and from under the basket the shooting and scoring woes would not be difficult to overcome, suddenly lanes would appear for drives to the basket and the opposition would be sagging in the middle giving the perimeter offense a chance to become a factor – but it all starts in the middle.
“I think the program has taken a step to where there is now a respect throughout the league,” Ramsey said. “I do not know if you could say that in the past.”
Respect is like a paycheck – you earn it!
How do you earn the respect of this league?
Go into the home of the Falcons, the most hostile arena in the league, Anderson Arena, Saturday afternoon and take care of your business. Make the shots you are suppose too and play defense like you know how to do and grab a victory away from a team, show some character and the personality of a team ready to make their season meaningful.
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.