The towering frame of Drew McGhee sat front and center at KSU’s men’s basketball press conference on Wednesday night, taking the proverbial seat of head coach Lewis Preston, who couldn’t attend the event due to a scheduling conflict.
No coach, no problem. McGhee has only been with the Owls program since April, though, with a charismatic engagement with the media, it was hard not to assume he’d spent his first four years in Kennesaw. Teammates Delbert Love and Andrew Osemhen made it clear that the former Miami Redhawk had more leverage in the locker room than just the fact he’s now the tallest player on the roster.
“Drew is like a natural leader,” said Osemhen, a senior forward who could have used some help in the paint in the past, and should get it with the 6’11” newcomer. “He came in and everyone has pretty much flocked toward him. He has a lot of experience, a lot of things to teach a lot of new players. We’ve just been here listening to him.”
McGhee appeared in 25 games last season, making three starts. He averaged 5.2 points and 2.3 rebounds per contest.
One might wonder why the fifth-year senior chose to come to KSU—which finished with a 3-27 record last season—to play out his final season of eligibility. McGhee, who spent the past three seasons playing for Miami University in Ohio, finished his undergrad and decided he’d follow his former assistant coach, Jim Lallathin, down south. Lallathin was an assistant coach for the Redhawks in 2010. McGhee was also recruited by Preston when he was an assistant in Happy Valley.
“I had an opportunity to coach Drew when I was an assistant at Penn State,” Preston said in an interview with ksuowls.com in April. “He’s a very good passing big man but even more importantly what he’ll bring to us is a level of toughness that’s needed and brings a wealth of experience coming from Miami of Ohio.”
McGhee, who’s now entering graduate school at KSU, had what it took to be a leader all along, but admitted that he was a little nervous at first with assuming that role amongst a new group of players.
“It felt uncomfotable because I didn’t know any of the guys yet,” McGhee said. “I think in any situation when you jump into a leadership role like that, you don’t know exactly who you are leading or exactly the personalities you are leading. It’s almost kind of scary at first.”
McGhee also had justified reasons to be skeptical. Afterall, the Owls have gone 6-55 in the past two seasons. Though, despite the struggles, he said he was pleasantly surprised with the squad’s camaraderie.
“After getting to know the guys, everybody on this team is a great guy, and that made it really easy” McGhee said. “Nobody really has an attitude or is kind of off on their own. Having that kind of family relationship made it easy to know everybody and form that bond.”
Bond was the same word issued over and over again by junior guard Delbert Love, who comes from the same part of the country as McGhee.
“When me and Drew first met, with we both being from Cleveland, we kind of made a bond,” Love said.
McGhee will add considerable front court size to the Owls lineup, along with another transfer in Willy Kouassi. Kousassi was once ranked as one of the top forwards in the entire country before attending and transferring out of Auburn’s program, along with lifelong teammate Bernard Morena, who followed Kouassi to KSU. All of these changes have created a depth that coach Preston hasn’t been afforded in the past, which has given the team a lot of new- found confidence. With McGhee being with the team for the very first time, it’s easy to understand why he’s putting the program’s rocky past in wake.
“I feel like we can score from any position—first string, second string and off the bench,” McGhee said. “I think we will consecutively be able to bring a high level of play throughout the season and into tournament time.”
For the most part, McGhee’s focus is quite apparent. But, there were a few novelties of his big move that he couldn’t fail to mention.
“The weather down here doesn’t hurt either,” McGhee said.