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Northern Star

The Student News Site of Northern Illinois University

Northern Star

Men’s basketball ready for season after MAC Tournament appearance

Tim Dodge
Eastern Michigan then-sophomore guard Emoni Bates (21) approaches NIU then-sophomore guard Zarique Nutter (2) as he jumps up to the hoop during the March 3 game at the NIU Convocation Center. The Huskies defeated Eastern Michigan by a final score of 85-66. (Tim Dodge | Northern Star)

DeKALB – After competing in the MAC tournament last season for the first time since 2019, NIU men’s basketball looks to improve upon its 13-19 record in the 2022-2023 season.

The Huskies posted a 9-9 conference record in 2022-2023, good for seventh place in the MAC. NIU’s signature win came over the eventual MAC champion Kent State University Golden Flashes in the regular season, but were eliminated by Kent State in the first round of the MAC tournament. 

Senior guard Keshawn Williams and junior guard David Coit each earned preseason All-MAC honors. Coit, who ranked 11th in the MAC in points per game in 2022-2023 and received a Third Team All-MAC selection, was named to the preseason All-MAC First Team. 

Williams saw his 2022-2023 season cut short due to an ACL tear in January, was an All-MAC Honorable Mention in his last full season in 2021-2022 and was named to the preseason All-MAC Second Team. 

At the time of his injury, Williams led the Huskies in scoring at 17.9 points per game and was averaging career highs in rebounds per game and three-point percentage. 

“We’re returning four starters,” said NIU men’s head basketball coach Rashon Burno. “Keshawn Williams, we lost really early in conference (play), ACL tear his second game. He’s back, we obviously still have to get full clearance, but he’s back to being really athletic, he’s where we need him to be.”

Before MAC play begins in January, the Huskies play 12 non-conference games, headlined by matchups with Marquette University, DePaul University, Northwestern University and the University of Iowa.

“As we look into the season, I wanted to, like we did in the last few years, be very competitive in the non-conference,” Burno said. “Our goal every year is to make sure we’re measuring ourselves with the very best.”

Coit led the Huskies in scoring in his first year at NIU with 15.5 points per game. Coit also shot 37.7% from three-point range and averaged 1.2 steals per game.

“Diggy (David) Coit is an all-league guard,” Burno said. “He’s had a phenomenal summer, and he had a phenomenal fall. We’re expecting big things from him in not just the point total, but in leadership.”

In addition to Williams and Coit, the Huskies are bringing back starters in junior guard Zarique Nutter and senior forward Harvin Ibarguen. 

“Harvin’s (Ibarguen) had a phenomenal summer,” Burno said. “We expect big things from him. And the guy I thought took leaps and bounds was Zarique Nutter, from a maturity standpoint, from an understanding of what goes into winning on a constant basis, he’s exceeded expectations.”

Burno also touched on some of the transfer players that are new to NIU and how they will help with experience and depth.

“(Senior guard) Phil (Philmon Gebrewhit) is a fifth year transfer who played in the Big East and shot 37% from three at DePaul, so I think he’s going to bring experience,” Burno said. “(Sophomore forward) Ethan (Butler) playing in the PAC-12 for a high-level program like Oregon, he knows what goes into winning … I wanted to get guys who understand what it takes to be a winner on and off the court.”

The Huskies’ first game is an exhibition game against Illinois Wesleyan University at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Convocation Center. 

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