Hammel notices progress; naming starters next step

By Wes Swietek

The NIU men’s basketball team has shown it can score after reaching 91 and 94 points in its first two exhibition games.

And head coach Brian Hammel has shown his fast-paced style can be effective after the Huskies beat Marathon Oil 94-88 Tuesday night.

But the next thing Hammel will have to figure out is who will be his starters, who will be the role players off the bench and who will be the bench warmers when the regular season begins Monday, Nov. 25 against Texas Tech.

In Tuesday’s game, 10 players saw considerable playing time.

“We have a lot of guys who are very similar in the roles that they play,” Hammel said. “I don’t think anyone has breaken away to say, ‘hey, this is my job.’ I think that’s good because it makes for competitive practice sessions.

“They have to figure out a way to gain an edge—to be more of a team player, to dive for loose balls … when you have that kind of team, it lends itself to playing a lot of people.”

Guard David Mitchell said he can see the progress the Huskies are making under their new head coach.

“In practice, we’re all starting to come together now as a team, and that’s showing on the court,” Mitchell said. “(Against Marathon Oil) it showed—everybody contributed.”

Hammel has also seen the progress.

“We took a giant step (Tuesday). What I wanted from an offensive and defensive standpoint … was to play more together as a team.

“What I want to do is make sure the players understand what our thinking is. I think they’re starting to know (what’s expected),” Hammel said.

Hammel’s next step is to determine the starters.

“My job is to find out who’s playing well together, who’s doing the things we’re asking of them—are they converting and sprinting back on defense, do they understand our defensive system and what we want from it.

“Those are the guys, who if they understand it and are willing to accept it and play together, these are the guys who will get the quality minutes,” Hammel said. “Right now, our minds are still open.”

‘The Huskies picked up a walk-on from last week’s open try out. Junior guard Brad Lindsay was spotted at Thursday’s tryouts, called back by the coaching staff, and played eight minutes Tuesday.

‘Guard Mike Lipnisky sat out the game with a muscle pull in his back.