With its opening game of the season set for tomorrow night, NIU men’s basketball is trying to separate itself from last season.
Whether or not they would admit it, last season’s play and off-court issues overshadowed the foundation coach Mark Montgomery was trying to lay down.
Following a turbulent time before Montgomery’s hiring, men’s basketball was dominated by a coach no one wanted to commit to and by a ball-hogging player that somehow brought fans into the convocation center.
Yes, I am saying bad things about Xavier Silas’ style of play.
Montgomery, a former point guard himself, understands the importance of point guard play and of sharing the ball in general.
The two freshmen he recruited showed promise in their exhibition game, but to what extent they find success against higher level competition remains to be seen.
From my perspective, I saw a lot of positives in this game. While the level of size, athleticism and decision making were all not really the strong suits of Aurora, all three of those factors were present for NIU.
The new recruits from the wing and front court positions all have great length and showed talent down around the basket. The ball movement got everyone involved and found open men for easy lay-ups and short range jumpers. The decision making wasn’t always on point, but the fact that they didn’t attempt a lot of threes and took advantage of their size is a simple and huge factor in winning a basketball game.
All of these positives were also shown off by a majority of players who will have to earn their minutes along the way. They scored 89 points in the absence of the leading scorer from last year, sophomore Abdel Nader.
As long as the playing style can feature similar elements from this game, I feel that year two under Montgomery will be a much smoother ride than the first. Building a winning team doesn’t happen overnight, or even in one season, but the young pieces are in place. It’s all a matter of how they are controlled.