Challenge, Bullets take on NIU’s roundball program

By Jeff Kirik

Jim Molinari still has a Challenge to face and Bullets to dodge before his NIU basketball head coaching debut.

The Aurora Challenge, an exhibition team made up of former Aurora-area prep and college players, will visit Chick Evans Field House Friday to take on the Huskies in a 7 p.m. exhibition game. The game will be the first of two preseason NIU exhibitions, the second being a Monday (Nov. 20) contest with the Brisbane Bullets.

The 1989 “dog days”—when practice begins to drag in anticipation of the regular season—have hit the Huskies. And even though every coach seems to talk about his desire to see his players scrimmage someone other than themselves, Molinari might have more reason to do so. After all, he’s never seen his team play in a real game situation.

“Normally, I would really think of preparing for the opposition, but I want to use this game to see where we’re at,” said Molinari in reference to Friday’s contest. “I want to see how we’re progressing both offensively and defensively. So I’m going to play a lot of people and see how we react in a game situation.”

The countdown to the Huskies’ season opener with Iona College is down to eight days, but several wrinkles in the NIU lineup still have to be ironed out. Only three players—juniors Donnell Thomas, Antwon Harmon and Donald Whiteside—seem to have locked up spots in the starting lineup.

Thomas, a 6-4, 212 pounder, has been entrenched in the team’s power forward spot for the past two seasons and will be looked to for both scoring and rebounding. The 6-foot-7 Harmon and the 5-foot-10 Whiteside will be the regulars at the small forward and point-guard positions, respectively.

However, the center and shooting-guard positions have yet to be decided. Regardless of who wins the nod as starting center, the two finalists, sophomore Randy Fens and junior Andrew Wells, each should see plenty of playing time in the middle. Stacy Arrington, the team’s leading scorer a year ago, is fighting off senior Phil Leib’s bid for the off-guard spot.

Three former Huskies will suit up for the Aurora Challenge, which lost a 100-93 contest to coach Jim Rosborough and NIU in last year’s preseason exhibition. Ex-NIU guards Rodney Davis and Randy Norman will team with forward Dennis Taylor and coach Ron Hicks to form the NIU portion of the Aurora squad.