Cleveland State is primed to grow under Daniyal Robinson

In his second year leading Cleveland State’s program, Robinson and his Vikings are hungry for success.
CLEVELAND, OH – FEBRUARY 12: Cleveland State Vikings head coach Daniyal Robinson on the sideline during the first half of the men’s college basketball game between the Youngstown State Penguins and Cleveland State Vikings on February 12, 2023, at the Wolstein Center in Cleveland, OH. (Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Fresh off a trip to the Horizon League Championship game in his first season as a collegiate head coach, Daniyal Robinson and the rest of the Cleveland State men’s basketball program are hungry for continued success in the upcoming 2023-24 Vikings season.

“It’s been a different type of summer for us,” Robinson explained to Right Down Euclid. While this particular offseason has been tailored towards growing in the position as the face of a program, Cleveland State has been blessed with a coach who understands the evolving nature of the position while simultaneously cultivating an environment that puts the players first. This has only elevated Cleveland State on the recruiting trail, a vital aspect of team building in the modern era.

While the Vikings lost multiple critical contributors from last year’s team due to graduation, Robinson and his staff quickly addressed those needs in the ever-evolving transfer portal. Robinson was searching for a point guard to replace Deshon Parker and now has the luxury of choosing from multiple candidates as the Vikings have abundant talent in the backcourt.

However, based on seniority and experience, newly signed Tevin Smith could have the inside track at the starting job. Smith, a junior from Danville, Illinois, signed with Cleveland State after playing two seasons for the University of Denver, where he started in 46 games. Smith averaged 10.6 points and 3.4 rebounds per game through his first two collegiate seasons with the Pioneers. Additionally, Smith was the first University of Denver freshman to take home the Summit League Player of the Week award, which he won in January 2022.

Smith’s skillset is somewhat reminiscent of Deshon Parker’s as a point guard. Like Parker, Smith is a bigger guard, stranding at 6’4″ with a disruptive wingspan. Additionally, most of Smith’s offensive production came near the rim a season ago, where he converted on 56 percent of his 8.9 attempted field goals per game. His production around the basket also accounted for 43 percent of his field goal attempts for the season, an aspect of his game that should translate well in Cleveland State’s downhill-centric offense.

Another significant void was left in CSU’s roster with the departure of Viking legend Deante “Spider” Johnson. Johnson had roamed the paint as Cleveland State’s defensive centerpiece for the last five seasons, becoming one of the Horizon League’s premier shot blockers and rim protectors. Replacing Johnson will be difficult, but Robinson will feature a committee of big men looking to provide a consistent spark for the Vikings down low.

CLEVELAND, OH – FEBRUARY 12: Cleveland State Vikings guard Ramar Pryor (20) with the basketball during the first half of the men’s college basketball game between the Youngstown State Penguins and Cleveland State Vikings on February 12, 2023, at the Wolstein Center in Cleveland, OH. (Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

In the transfer portal, the Vikings were able to land K.J. Debrick, a 6’9″ junior from John A. Logan College. A former junior college teammate of Vikings guard Tae Williams, Debrick possesses an extremely interesting skillset as a big man who can stretch the floor offensively while patrolling the rim on the defensive end. Debrick was an integral piece of Logan’s Junior College National Championship this past season, as he scored the game-winning bucket in the title game to give the Volunteers the victory.

In addition to Debrick, the Vikings were able to ink Dok Muordar from the transfer portal, a 6’11 sophomore who played his first season at the University of Southern Florida. Muordar played high school basketball at storied Huntington Prep and will be an exciting project for Cleveland State as his size could become an asset in the Horizon League. While Robinson hopes to gain production from his transfers, he also has high hopes for Dylan Arnett, who returns for his second season. Look for Debrick and Arnett to get the early crack at the center position.

Robinson and his staff were not the only Vikings having an extremely busy summer. Incoming sophomore Ramar Pryor has had an unbelievable summer, as Robinson stated, “Ramar Pryor has been a standout this summer during our eight weeks.” An Akron native, Robinson also lauded Pryor’s commitment to his craft as he was the most visible team member in the gym during the team’s downtime. Pryor appeared in 31 games as a freshman, with his season-high coming in the most critical moment, a ten-point performance in the conference semi-finals versus Milwaukee. While there could be a chance Pryor finds himself in the starting lineup, he will be a critical piece off the bench, playing significant minutes if that is the role best suited for him at this stage.

Finally, Tristan Enaruna is another Viking having a critical offseason, as the First-Team All-Horizon League forward was recruited by his native country, the Netherlands, to play in this summer’s FIBA Basketball World Cup. Enaruna averaged 2.0 points on 25.0% shooting and 2.7 rebounds in 18.2 minutes per game in three appearances for the Orange Lions. His best performance came in the Netherlands’ lone win over Belgium, where he had 4 points on 28.6% shooting and 4 rebounds in 21 minutes off the bench.

“They approached us to see if it would work with our schedule, and obviously we did everything we could do to make it happen,” Robinson explained to Right Down Euclid. “It’s an honor to represent his country and be around his family and friends.”

Not only has this been a fantastic learning experience for Enaruna, but it has provided him with the opportunity to play against world-class competition in both practices and games. This summer adventure can only serve Enaruna well as he looks to help lead the Vikings back to the NCAA Tournament.

This offseason has been one of growth for the entirety of the Cleveland State men’s basketball program. From Robinson continuing to learn and grow as head coach to Enaruna having a life-changing experience playing for his native country, the program is in a healthy state headed into the 2023-2024 campaign. The Vikings know how they need to play to maximize their plethora of talent. It will be a fascinating puzzle for Robinson and Cleveland State’s coaching staff to assemble.

Alec Kwait has experience covering sports of all levels. But, his passion lies with mid-major Division I and Division III collegiate men’s basketball. He provides Right Down Euclid in-depth access and coverage to programs like John Carroll, Case Western, Cleveland State and even Akron! His work covering Horizon League men’s and women’s basketball can also be found at Horizone Roundtable.

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