The Northern Illinois men’s basketball team will take to the court for the first time this season on Friday when it hosts Carthage College in an exhibition contest at 7 p.m. at the NIU Convocation Center.
Friday’s contest will mark head coach Mark Montgomery’s first game along the sidelines for the Huskies.
Montgomery, the 27th head coach in Northern Illinois men’s basketball history, came to NIU following 10 highly-successful seasons as an assistant coach at his alma mater, Michigan State, under head coach Tom Izzo.
“The most important thing tomorrow is to show progress from our scrimmage,” Montgomery said. “We want to dominate the glass and we want to limit our turnovers, we had way too many turnovers in our scrimmage. I want to make sure that we take good shots and continue to shoot a high percentage.”
Montgomery’s youthful Huskies return just five players from last season while welcoming nine newcomers to the roster this year. Senior forward Tim Toler (Indianapolis, Ind./Avon HS/Danville Area CC) is the leading returning scorer and rebounder for the Huskies. Toler averaged 9.9 points and 5.5 rebounds per game last season.
Redshirt sophomore guard Antone Christian (Nashville, Tenn./Martin Luther King Magnet) looks to build upon the strong finish he had to last season. Christian averaged 9.4 points per game over the final 14 games of last season.
Senior forward Tyler Storm (Geneseo, Ill./Geneseo) and junior guard Tony Nixon (South Holland, Ill./Seton Academy) also return and bring much needed experience to the Huskie lineup, sophomore Aksel Bolin (Asker, Norway/Asker) is the fifth returnee for the Huskies.
In addition to their five returnees, the Huskies welcome a group of nine newcomers who will suit up in Cardinal and Black for the first time.
Four local signees, twin forwards Keith and Kevin Gray (Chicago, Ill./Brooks Academy), guard Zach Miller (Chicago, Ill./Glenbard East) and wing Abdel Nader (Skokie, Ill./Niles North), along with wing DeAndre Barnette (Jackson, Tenn./Liberty Tech) and guard Marquavese Ford (Saginaw, Mich./Saginaw) lead the group of newcomers for NIU.
“We are going to look to play a lot of different combinations to try to determine which guys play the best together,” Montgomery said. “More than anything, we want to make sure that our energy level and our effort level are extremely high.”
Northern Illinois was picked to finish fifth in the Mid-American Conference West Division preseason poll released earlier this week.
Carthage finished last season with a 16-9 overall record, 9-5 in the College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin (CCIW). Malcolm Kelly is the leading returning scorer for the Red Men, the 6-0 guard averaged 13.2 points per contest a season ago. Carthage has been picked to finish fifth in the CCIW this season.
Basketball season tickets are still available, including the combined men’s and women’s season ticket for just $141. Season tickets for the NIU men’s basketball team are just $107 for the general public and $91 for NIU faculty/staff or senior citizens (62 and older). Fans can purchase season tickets online or by calling (815) 752-6800.
NIU will open the 2011-12 regular season Friday, Nov. 11, as the Huskies travel to West Lafayette, Ind., to take on Purdue. Game time against the Boilermakers is scheduled for 6 p.m. The contest will be shown live on ESPN3.
For more information on NIU men’s basketball and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.