The first official dribble should come around 3:00 p.m. Tuesday at Chick Evans Field House.
Official because basketball teams can officially begin practicing today in preparation for the 1991-92 season.
For NIU’s men’s basketball team, the coming season can be summarized in one word: transition.
Transition as in new head coach (Brian Hammel), new line-up (five seniors are gone from last season) and the new transition offense Hammel plans to install.
Hammel, formerly an assistant at Southern California, takes over for Jim Molinari who is now leading the Bradley Braves.
“This is something I’ve been waiting for since I took the job,” Hammel said. “I’ve been ready for a while for this day to get here.”
Last year’s Mid-Continent Conference regular season champs earned NIU’s first-ever NCAA at-large bid and went 25-6. Four of the five departed seniors started for that squad, leaving Hammel facing his inaugral NIU season with a lot of holes to fill.
Stepping in for the Huskies are seven veterans and three freshman.
Hubert Register, a 6-8 forward from Minneapolis, Marlon Simms, a 6-5 swingman from Nashville and 6-3 guard Bob Plasman from Bedford, Ohio are the new Huskies.
NIU will be missing two recruits who were expected to contribute to this season’s squad. Highly-touted Waubonsee Junior College guard David Bacon didn’t have good enough grades to enter NIU, and forward Theo Stafford elected to enroll in a college closer to his Oklahoma home.
Leading the returning veterans are swing men Brian Molis and Mike Hidden, who’ll join junior center Randy Fens and sophomore guard Mike Lipnisky as the most experienced returning players.
Getting the returners and starters to function as a unit is what Hammel said he would try to work on in early practices.
“We’ll work mostly on team work,” Hammel said. “Our job is to get them to think collectively, with an equal emphasis on offense and defense.”
Despite the tough season ahead, Hammmel said today’s official opening of practice provokes positive thoughts.
“The players seem to be anxious to get out there,” he said. “It’s going to be exciting.”