That’s right, ‘It’s Hammel Time’

By Wes Swietek

It’s time for the NIU men’s basketball team, which faces what could be a tough season, to prove that it’s too legit to quit.

That’s right, it’s Hammel time.

Rookie head coach Brian Hammel and the Huskies finally hit the hardwood against an unfriendly opponent tonight at 7 p.m. at Chick Evans Field House.

The opposition for the exhibition opener is a Select Lithuanian National team, currently touring the Midwest and playing preseason games against collegiate squads.

Hammel knows enough about the Lithuanians to predict that the Huskies will be in for a tough game.

“These guys are a lot older, a lot bigger, a lot stronger and they have so much experience,” Hammel said. “But that’s good for us.

“I’m more concerned about what we’re going to do.”

Glimpses of the answer to the question of what the Huskies are going to do this season might be offered in tonight’s opener.

After loosing five key seniors, head coach Jim Molinari (to Bradley University) and several players who were expected to join NIU but for various reasons are not, Hammel has had to rebuild.

The first-year NIU coach has added walk-ons to replace the missing players and has also installed an up-tempo offense more suited to his guard-dominated roster.

And NIU fans will get a chance to see how well the team has adapted to Hammel’s style tonight.

“This will be a good barometer. I think the players are ready—we’ve practiced almost a month,” Hammel said. “It’ll be good to see what they can do against other faces.

“I’m sure the players are anxious. Hopefully, we’ll settle down.

The opener will also allow Hammel to evaluate his team against a disciplined foe.

“We’ll be looking at different combinations,” said Hammel, who is treating the exhibition game the same way he will treat a regular-season match.

“We’re treating it like a normal game. We’ll go out ready to play, (concentrating) on playing to our potential and doing what we’re taught,” Hammel said.

“Everybody has been progressing, but this will be a true test.”

The game also marks the debut of freshman forwards Marlin Simms, Hubert Register and the two walk-ons, Tim O’Rourke and Gerry Lorenzi, who the Huskies have picked up.

Hammel will take a look at adding more walk-ons at a tryout Thursday, 7 p.m. at the fieldhouse. (More information about the tryout is available at 753-1633).

The newcomers’ toughest obstacle Tuesday might be the nervousness inherit in their collegiate debut—otherwise known as butterflies.

“I have those all the time. But I have those when I hit the practice floor,” Hammel said. “I’m excited for the players—they’re anxious and enthusiastic about starting.”