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Northern Star

The Student News Site of Northern Illinois University

Northern Star

New Huskies making immediate impact on men’s basketball

Nyla Owens
Senior guard Philmon Gebrewhit hands the ball off to junior guard Zarique Nutter during an NIU men’s basketball home game against Indiana State University on Tuesday. Gebrewhit is averaging 10.9 points per game in his first season in a Huskie uniform. (Nyla Owens | Northern Star)

DeKALB – After losing three seniors to the transfer portal after the 2022-23 season, the NIU men’s basketball team (5-3) has raced out to its best record through eight games since 2019.

Senior guard Philmon Gebrewhit, sophomore forward Ethan Butler and freshman guard Will Lovings-Watts are the key new faces of NIU men’s basketball that are helping the Huskies flourish.

Gebrewhit, a transfer from DePaul University, has started all eight games for the Huskies so far, averaging 10.9 points per game.

“Phil (Gebrewhit), being a fifth year and playing at a Power Five (conference), playing against some really good Big East teams, his experience really helps us from a day-to-day standpoint,” said NIU men’s basketball head coach Rashon Burno.

Butler transferred from the University of Oregon and has been a key member of the bench unit in the early goings of the season.

“Ethan, coming from Oregon in the PAC-12, didn’t play a ton due to injuries,” Burno said. “He knows how to get himself ready for practice and just be ready to play when his number is called. Those two guys (Butler and Gebrewhit) really have led in the leadership department based on their experiences.”

Lovings-Watts is getting his first taste of college basketball and making an immediate impact. He led the Huskies in scoring with 19 points in a victory over the Illinois Institute of Technology on Nov. 13, becoming the first NIU freshman to lead NIU in scoring since 2017.

“He’s (Lovings-Watts) one of those guys who is getting better every day,” Burno said. “The more he can see something, the better he’ll get at it. He’s young, good legs, good energy. We’re excited about his future.”


In addition to the strong play on the court, the Huskies have a tight bond off the court as well.

“I like how together everybody is and, I’m gonna keep it real, how funny everybody is,” Butler said. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen a group that’s so connected through jokes, laughter, being able to talk to each other. That’s what I really like about this team.”

Lovings-Watts echoed Butler’s feelings about the tightness of this year’s team.

“Other than on the court, we’re with each other a lot off the court,” Lovings-Watts said. “We’re brothers. Whether it’s going out to eat, things like that, we’ve really bonded as a team since we first got together. I feel like it’s really good that we’re bonding off the court so then on the court our chemistry is better.”


With senior guard Keshawn Williams still getting back to game speed after returning from a torn ACL he suffered in January, and senior forward Harvin Ibarguen nursing an injury he suffered against DePaul University, the new faces have stepped up in their absence.

“Those guys can step up,” Burno said. “The most important thing when you have injuries, you want to stay away from drop-offs. The guys that we’re missing are all good players, but we got other guys that are capable of stepping up and doing it for an extended period of time. We’re fortunate that we got those guys in the program, and I look forward to big things from them.”

Lovings-Watts said while his impact might not always be seen in the scoring department, he is finding his role by doing whatever is necessary to help the team win.

“I just gotta do the little things that some other players might not want to do like talking, getting (diving) on the floor, trying to guard the best players,” Lovings-Watts said. “I’m just trying to be a ‘plug-in’ player, somebody that is maybe not gonna go out and get you 20 or 30 points, but somebody that’s gonna get you some rebounds, some steals, some blocks, some deflections, stuff like that.”

Butler said he takes pride in doing the “dirty work” as well as the things that may not show up on the stat sheet.

“Good energy off the bench and like I said, being a good defender and rebounding the ball,” Butler said. “Doing the dirty work, doing everything that may not show up in the stat sheet but contributes to the win.”


While not new to NIU this year, sophomore forwards Xavier Amos and Yanic Konan Niederhauser have found themselves in starting roles, seeing much more play time than they did last season.

Amos’ freshman season was cut short due to injury. He appeared in just eight games in 2022-23. After starting just two games and averaging just 7.6 minutes per game as a freshman, Konan Niederhauser has started all eight games in 2022-23, averaging over 18 minutes per game.

“X (Amos) is a guy that didn’t play due to a high ankle sprain, and Yanic (Konan Niederhauser) was sporadic due to injuries and surgery,” Burno said. “So just seeing these guys be everyday guys is really, really a good sign for the program. They’re still young and in development which means there’s improvement still there, but just the ability to have these guys in practice every day really elevates the program.”

Konan Niederhauser ranks second in the MAC in blocks per game, and Amos is averaging 12.6 points per game on a blistering 51.9% shooting from three-point range.


“Everybody’s trying to be better but not in the sense of something selfish, but if I pass you the ball, I know my brother gonna make the shot,” Butler said. “We’re doing it for each other.”

Burno said the program is in a great position for the future, and the new players give NIU a chance to win any game.

“I think this program is positioned in the right place to really scale off this season, so we’re excited about the future,” Burno said. “These guys give us a tremendous opportunity to win a lot of games.”

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