Four freshmen give youthful depth to NIU

By Chris Sigley

Although sophomores Donnell Thomas and Donald Whiteside have been declared co-captains of the NIU men’s basketball team, another Huskie has taken on a different leadership role.

Standing 6-foot-9 at 245 pounds, freshman Brent Varner has acquired the nickname “Moses” because, his teammates say, he will lead NIU to the Promised Land.

Varner is only one of the team’s freshmen foursome that will serve as relief to the Huskies’ youthful lineup of five starting sophomores.

“It’s our feeling, watching Brent play, that he was probably used more as a screener and rebounder than a scorer back in high school,” NIU men’s coach Jim Rosborough said. “His offensive skills were not very refined when he got here.

“We’ve really had to spend time on those (skills) and now you see an awful lot of improvement just from his ability to release the ball and shoot the jumphook.”

Another front liner with a little more agility is packaged in 6-foot-8 forward Randy Fens from Dubuque, Iowa. It will be decided after the first few games whether Fens will be redshirted because of a previously injured knee.

“He’s a tough rebounder because he takes up space,” Rosborough said. “All things considered, he’s done a terrific job with the knee injury. He’ll be our first front liner off the bench.”

While 6-foot-5 Mike Hidden might be one of the “most improved kids” on the team, the Rockford Harlem guard/forward won’t go very far unless he improves his build as well.

“His whole career is going to be wrapped up in how fast he matures physically, and if he works on the weights and makes himself strong,” Rosborough said.

Although Rosborough cited guard Marcus Coty as one of the most mistake-free players on his squad, he noted there is always room for improvement.

“He’s as sound as a player as is on our team,” Rosborough said. “He doesn’t make mistakes, and he’s sound defensively. The biggest thing that he’s going to have to do is work on his ball-handling skills so he can help handle the point for us.”

Phil Leib from Olney (Ill.) Community College, only had original intentions of concentrating on school as much as basketball. However, Rosborough has decided to issue Leib a scholarship for the spring semester.

“Phil’s been a very, very pleasant surprise,” Rosborough said. He’s a quick learner and a hard worker.”

Joliet Community College transfer Dan Bedeker, another walk-on, won’t be seeing much action in tight games.

“I think he realizes his role, and I think he accepts his role very well,” Rosborough said.”