Basketball squad gears for opener

By Carl Ackerman

As the start of the regular season draws nearer, the NIU men’s basketball team will hit the floor for its first exhibition game of the season.

The Huskies will host the Sydney Kings from Australia Tuesday for a 7:05 match at Chick Evans Field House.

The game will be one of two exhibition games NIU will play before beginning its regular season Nov. 27 at the University of Maine.

“It’s going to be a good test for us,” head coach Jim Molinari said. “More importantly than who we’re playing, I think it’s a chance for us to play against outside competition and see where we’re at. We’re going to put different people on the court and see how far along we are.”

Sydney lost a tight game to Illinois-Chicago 81-74 Monday.

“They’re a typical Austrailian team,” Molinari said. “They’re strong and very physical. They’re well orgainized and well coached. Hopefully, we’ll have a lot of mobility.

“I want to start off where we left off last year, defensively, and hopefully we’ll do a better job offensively,” Molinari said.

Last season the Huskies finished in the NCAA’s No. 5 spot for the best defensive team. A similar performance this season will partially depend on the returners who posted a 17-11 overall record and a stellar 13-1 ledger at home.

Six-foot-four senior standout Donnell Thomas will return to action tonight. Thomas led NIU in total points and rebounds last season with a 17.8 and 8.0 average, respectively. Senior guard Donald Whiteside will also be providing plenty of points for the Huskies. Last season he finished second with an 11.8 scoring average and sank 59 three-pointers.

Coach “Mo” will be closely watching the performances of junior guard Stacy Arrington, who recently underwent arthoscopic knee surgery. This will also give Molinari a chance to monitor the performances of NIU’s newcomers.