Lipnisky content with NIU, despite setbacks

By Hyun Moon

At the end of last year, Mike Lipnisky never wanted to see NIU again.

He wanted out of DeKalb soon after former basketball coach Jim Molinari resigned to take the head coaching job at Bradley. Lipnisky didn’t even want to wait until a new coach was hired before transferring, but Athletic Director Gerald O’Dell wouldn’t give him the transfer papers until a new coach was hired.

So Lipnisky, 1991’s Mid-Continent Newcomer of the Year, waited and met new coach Brian Hammel last April, and three hours later, he picked up his transfer papers.

Lipnisky’s reasons for wanting to leave: “I was unhappy with the way basketball was going for me,” he said. “I was just unhappy being a college athlete. I thought it was strenuous, but it’s going to be like that, and it took me time to realize that.”

After a summer of school (and soul) searching, Lipnisky decided NIU wasn’t such a bad place.

“I was still in touch with the coaching staff,” Lipnisky said, “and after I heard what type of style we’ll be playing, I decided to come back. It’s been the best move I’ve made so far.”

Hammel didn’t exactly welcome Lipnisky back with open arms. Hammel surveyed the remaining players to see if they wanted Lipnisky back.

“We wanted to make sure Mike was coming back for the right reasons,” Hammel said. “Then we called the other players and asked if they wanted him back.”

“I told coach Hammel,” said Brian Molis, “Mike was a just a freshman and had a tough time with coach Molinari leaving. Mike is basically a good person, and he will help our team.”

Lipnisky’s contracting mononucleosis before last season began also didn’t help matters. “It was the hardest thing for me,” he said. “I still haven’t completely recovered.”

This year, Lipnisky has suffered another setback. Two weeks ago, he suffered a back injury during practice which caused him to miss the first three games this year. During those three games, senior David Mitchell’s performance left an impression on Hammel, who said Mitchell has earned the starting spot.

Hammel said who starts each game doesn’t matter. “I’m more concerned with who finishes the game than who starts,” he said

“I like his poise on the court,” Hammel said of Lipnisky, “but he has a long way to go before being a good player in this league. He needs to improve his defense and his fundamental offensive skills.”

The transition from Molinari to Hammel has eased some pressure off him, Lipnisky said. “I don’t want to cut down our coaching staff (from) last year, but this year’s staff is a lot more loose, yet still structured.”

With the addition of raw talents like Hubert Register and Marlin Simms, the future looks bright for NIU basketball. Lipnisky said he’s content as well.

“I’m committed to NIU,” Lipnisky echoed. “I’m here to stay.”