Introducing star Huskie athletes

By Jeff Kirik

Even though NIU has failed to establish itself as a national power in any one sport, a number of its teams feature top-caliber talent.

Rodney Davis was the lone bright spot for a men’s basketball season that was crises-stricken the entire year. The 6-foot-3-inch point guard was the team’s leading scorer last season with 391 points. He averaged 14.5 points per game and led the Huskies with 111 assists and 40 steals. He also had a 33-point game against Toledo last season.

“He’s a very good player when he’s in balance and rhythm. He has a lot of natural ability, plus an above-average feel for the game,” said men’s basketball coach Jim Rosborough.

Davis, who played his first two years as the off guard, was switched to the point at the beginning of last year.

“I like the point guard because I know I have control,” Davis said. “I control the tempo and what’s happening on the floor.”

odney Taylor is the football team’s dynamo of moves. The 5-foot-7-inch, 156-pound sophomore running back is by no means large. However, when it comes to quickness, he is monstrous.

Taylor was second on the team in rushing last season with 548 yards on 101 carries for an average of 5.4 yards an attempt. He was second with 16 catches for a team-leading 218 yards receiving.

Taylor started quickly his freshman year, setting an NIU record with an 89-yard punt return for a touchdown against Bowling Green State. In his initial season, he finished with 176 yards on 47 carries.

This year will be a period in which Carol Owens has to make up for what she missed last season. Owens, a 6-foot-2-inch center on the women’s basketball team, sat out last year after injuring her knee during the first 30 seconds of the opener.

Owens participated in the Olympic Sports Festival after her freshman year when she averaged 13.4 points per game and 8.1 rebounds per game and had a .519 field goal percentage.

Steve Wiere was the top gun for the men’s tennis team last year. After establishing himself as the top high school player in California, Wiere came to NIU, where he continued his success.

To many, Wiere might seem crazy to leave the sun of California to come to the frigid Midwest. However, he said he had a good reason for coming to NIU.

“For a change,” he said. “I lived in California my whole life, and there’s never any change in the weather.”

As the Huskies’ top netman, Wiere competed against some of the top players in the Midwest and in the country and fashioned a sparkling 35-12 overall singles record in 1986-87.

“I can’t say enough about him,” said men’s tennis coach Carl Neufeld. “It seems like a zillion matches for us. He’s playing great for anyone, let alone a freshman.”

The softball team’s sophomore centerfielder, Jill Justin, is one player who is definitely All-American. She completed the 1987 campaign with First Team All-America honors after her red-hot war club terrorized every pitcher she faced.

Justin finished the year hitting .503, which possibly will lead the nation when the National Collegiate Athletic Association releases its final statistics this summer. Justin said earlier in the year hitting .500 was a dream of hers. Her hits were of all varieties, including a two-run home run off Northwestern All-American pitcher Lisa Ishikawa.

In 1986, Justin set Huskie marks with six home runs, 12 doubles, 28 runs batted in, 11 stolen bases, seven game winning RBIs and a .435 batting average that was third highest in the nation. For her efforts, Justin received Mideast Regional All-America honors.

“She’s a very competitive person,” said softball coach Dee Abrahamson. “When she steps up to the plate, it’s the nine people out on the field against her, and she usually wins.”

As a freshman last year, Carlos Fulcher tumbled his way into DeKalb and the NIU record books. He also became the latest men’s gymnast to become an All-American when he finished in a third place tie in vaulting at the NCAA championships. The Brazil native set an NIU record for overall score in his third meet, compiling a 56.75 against Illinois-Chicago. In the same meet, he set a school record with a 9.75 on the parallel bars.

The women’s gymnastics team is led by sophomore Martha Unger. Unger said she began tumbling because of a former Olympic champion.

“I was inspired by Nadia Comaneci in the 1976 Summer Olympics,” she said. “I also had a friend who wanted to take a gymnastics class, and she talked me into joining.”

Coach Bobbie Cesarek described what makes Unger special in her sport. “She wants to be No. 1 and works to get there. She knows what it takes to be a winner in gymnastics.”

Like Owens, Dave Richardson will try to make a comeback this season. The NIU soccer midfielder set an NIU assist record with 11 to go along with his three goals in his sophomore season in 1985.

ichardson also earned Second Team All-Midwest honors and a spot on the Metro Conference first team. However, Richardson was forced to the sidelines most of last season because of a bout with mononucleosis.