When Jermaine Kimbrough left in May to join the coaching staff at Nevada, it was right in the middle of a relatively low point for Cleveland State. After all, Kimbrough’s departure was preceded by Trey Lewis’ transfer to Louisville and was subsequently followed up by Anton Grady’s move to Wichita State. And with Kimbrough serving as the Vikings’ recruiting coordinator, it seemed as if the entire program was imploding right before our eyes.
Now, while the prospect of Cleveland State competing for a Horizon League title still appears pretty bleak, at least fans have themselves a glimmer of hope when it comes to who has been announced to replace Kimbrough.
That new face comes in the form of Jermaine Henderson, who has spent the past three seasons as the assistant coach at Missouri State. Of course, there are plenty of Mid-American Conference ties here, given that Henderson was a player at Miami University then transitioned to coaching, serving as an assistant and, from 2005 to 2012, an associate head coach under the late Charlie Coles.
And yes, CSU fans. If you’re doing the math, as the Redhawks top recruiter, he was the one who brought in Jon Harris, who spent his senior campaign as a Viking.
It’s interesting, really, how it seems that Henderson would be available in the first place, seeing as how he appeared to be one of the top candidates to replace Coles when he retired in 2012, along with fellow Miami assistant and former Butler head coach Todd Lickliter.
But for whatever reason, the powers that be went in another direction, bypassing Henderson and Lickliter completely in favor of Tennessee State head coach John Cooper, who still hasn’t been able to get the Redhawks to a winning season in the past three years.
Miami’s loss would be Missouri State’s, and now Cleveland State’s, gain.
And with Henderson’s history of recruiting in Ohio, it’s no wonder why the Vikings and head coach Gary Waters would jump at the chance to bring him on board. Among the athletes he brought into the fold at Miami were MAC Players of the Year Wally Szczerbiak and Michael Bramos, as well as local high school standouts Chet Mason and Julius Johnson.
Given Cleveland State’s recruiting footprint has been geared more towards Michigan in recent years, the experience Henderson brings in landing Ohio athletes will hopefully expand the map more for the Vikings in the future.
What is more intriguing about Henderson’s hire is, once again, his history with the Redhawks that included a 3-3 record as interim head coach filling in for a hospitalized Coles. That included a MAC Tournament win in 2008 over Buffalo. As a player and as a coach, Henderson was a part of four NCAA tournaments and two NITs with Miami.
Not to read too much into it, but it doesn’t seem out of the realm of possibility that this hire could be a look to the future. Remember, Waters is under contract until 2019, and with his age, the 2018-19 campaign may be his last.
At the same time, Henderson, who has been considered for a head coaching job before, will still be in his mid-40s. For all the hand-wringing fans have done related to what would happen after Waters retired, maybe this is a sign of what’s to come?
But again, we’ve getting far too ahead of ourselves on that front. The big thing Henderson should bring is the opportunity for Cleveland State to shake of this perception that the program has fallen into a quagmire of complacency that it didn’t really seem to know how to dig out of.
While this season may be middling, given the recent defections, maybe there really is a light at the end of the tunnel for the Vikings.
Then again, that light may be another train, provided courtesy of a Grady interview with the Wichita Eagle. In the story, Grady might have shed some light on the burning fan question, “Why does CSU seem to be a place players want to leave lately?”
Primarily, Grady had stated that he was looking for an opportunity to expand his game beyond the defensive focus of the Waters system. With the expansion of his shooting range recently to include attempts beyond the three-point line, the thinking made some sort of sense.
But then there was this other gem.
“Everybody wasn’t on the same page. (At WSU), it’s more ‘I’m happy that guy can shoot the ball because that will help us win’ more than ‘He can shoot the ball, he going’s to take some of my minutes.'”
Now, that probably wasn’t true in Grady’s case, seeing as how he was the primary starter his whole time at Cleveland State and there was never really anybody with the same level of talent to take that job away from him. However, this mentality may very well have been the impetus for other departures, most notably Junior Lomomba, who seemingly found himself as the odd man out after the emergence of Bryn Forbes in 2013.
Whatever the case may be, Grady’s comments only draws more questions that Cleveland State didn’t want to have to answer. Of course, since most have checked out on CSU for the summer, maybe nobody will remember.