Huskies host black and red scrimmage

By Khobi Price

The men’s basketball team hosted its annual Red and Black scrimmage Wednesday ahead of its 2018-19 campaign opener against the Rockford University Regents 7 p.m. Nov. 6 at the Convocation Center. The scrimmages served as the Huskies first public competition of the new season.

NIU competed in three, 12-minute practice games with referees officiating the contests and two to six players switching teams after the games.

“All in all, I thought the guys played with great energy and effort,” Head Coach Mark Montgomery said. “We shared the ball, we got out in the fast break and we defended. It’s always tough when you play yourself because you know what the other guy is doing, but for the first public showing I thought we looked good.”

Here are some notes from the scrimmages:


1. Senior guard Dante Thorpe was hurt and did not play; he was out with a thigh contusion after colliding with senior forward Lacey James earlier in the week.

2. Sophomore guard Zaire Mateen did not compete in the scrimmages either, Montgomery said he was banged up.

3. Black team starters: Junior guard Eugene German, sophomore guard Rod Henry-Hayes, senior wing Anastasios Demogerontas, senior wing Levi Bradley and James. The black team was led by Assistant Coach Lamar Chapman.

4. White team starters: Freshman guard Trendon Hankerson, junior guard Alize Travis, freshman wing Austin Richie, senior forward Jalen Key and senior forward Noah McCarty. The white team was coached by Associate Head Coach John Borovich.

5. Bradley notched the first points of game with two free-throws after being fouled during a shot at the rim.

6. German brought down two rebounds early in the first scrimmage. Montgomery said he is challenging to increase both his assists and rebounds per game to five after averaging 1.7 and 3.8 in the respective cater goes during the 2017-18 season.

7. The first score of the game came from a Henry-Hayes corner 3-pointer in transition after German passed to Bradley, who dished the ball to Henry-Hayes in the corner.

8. Key scored the red team’s first basket with an up-and under move after good pass by McCarty.

9. German looked to get his teammates involved early. He passed up a lay-up opportunity to kick the ball out to Henry-Hayes for another 3-pointer.

10. First substitutions of the scrimmage: sophomore guard Gairges Daow came in for Henry-Hayes and freshman wing Justin Lee subbed in for McCarty.

11. Key and Bradley exchanged buckets in the post before the white team called the first timeout of the scrimmage.

12. After the timeout, Demogerontas was assisted by German for an alley-oop lay-up after a turnover.

13. A couple possessions later, Bradley locked arms with someone on the white team while trying to grab an offensive rebound. Bradley was assessed with a flagrant foul and the white team was awarded with a technical free throw. Borovich said the NCAA is focusing on preventing offensive players from wrapping up defenders while trying to get a rebound.

14. The black team was playing a faster pace and made a conscious effort to share the ball. In transition, German passed the ball to Demogerontas for a potential alley-oop, but he kicked it out to Daow in corner who drove towards the basket before kicking it back out to Demogerontas, who missed an open corner 3-pointer.

15. Although the black team struggled to make perimeter shots as the scrimmage went on, German was consistently looking to get his teammates involved. He passed up numerous scoring opportunities that he would’ve taken advantage last season to dish the ball to his teammates and set them up to score.

16. “He knows he can’t do it by himself,” Montgomery said. “We didn’t have a great shooting day today, but he was making the right plays.He’s going to have two or three guys on him sometimes, so he’s going to have to distribute that ball and he did a great job today.”

17. Key has impeccable touch and footwork in the low and pinch post. He’s a reliable mid-range scoring threat and was knocking down face-up shots with ease even when contested. He scored eight points per contest during his sophomore season before missing the entire 2017-18 season with a shoulder injury.

18. “He’s a post-threat, but also a 15 to 18 foot shot threat,” Montgomery said. “That face-up jump shot is deadly. He’s an added leader, voice and presence that’s going to put a lot of pressure on opposing defenses.”

19. German scored his first basket of the scrimmage with a tough finish at rim to put the black team up 18-13.

20. The white team reduced its deficit to 18-15 before fouling German to put him on the foul line for one-and-one free throws. German missed the first free throw and the white team secured the next possession, but an errant pass to Key prevented the white team from capitalizing and the black team won the first scrimmage 18-15.


Henry-Hayes, James and Daow switched to the white team while Key, Richie and Hankerson switched to the black team.

1. Black starters: German, Richie, Bradley, Demogerontas and Key

2. White starters: Henry-Hayes, Travis, Daow, McCarty and James.

3. Montgomery said even though he didn’t show it during the scrimmages, Richie is the team’s best shooter. He still found a way to make an impact on the scrimmages despite experiencing a cold shooting day, including a hustle play that won the black team the ball.

4. Travis displayed advanced passing skills in the half-court with a dime to James during the second scrimmage. Montgomery said Travis can run a team and is always looking to get players involved. Travis averaged seven assists per game as a sophomore at Pima Community College during the 2017-2018 campaign.

5. German was more aggressive as a scorer in the second scrimmage; he had two shot attempts within the first two minutes and scored the black team’s first basket.

6. McCarty made another nice pass for a Travis floater leading into a timeout. McCarty averaged 1.3 assists per 40 minutes in Mid-American Conference play during the 2017-18 season, which was tied for the most assists per 40 minutes among non-guards on the Huskies.

7. The players got into their best rhythm during the middle of the second scrimmage. The pace of play began to pick up as both teams were running more in transition, which is something Montgomery said he wants the team to do more.

8. German nailed a tough, contested jumper and converted a tough finish at the rim in transition before being subbed out for the first time of the scrimmage.

9. The white team changed defense from man-to-man to a 2-3 zone with German out. It was an effective switch as the white team forced two consecutive turnovers in half court before German re-entered the contest.

10. After a timeout, Key made a recognition on how to take advantage of the white team’s high hedges on defense after a pick-and-roll. Hankerson-Bradley ran a pick-and-roll which Hankerson as the ball-handler and Bradley as the screener. The white team hedged high to prevent Hankerson from making a clean pass to Bradley. Key called for the ball in the middle of the floor, Hankerson dished the ball to Key and he slightly misfired a pass to Bradley who was still rolling to basket. It was good offensive awareness that would’ve looked even better with a cleaner pass. Key said his basketball IQ and on-court wisdom are assets he brings to this year’s team.

11. James looked stronger and more aggressive on the interior offensively. He did not hesitate to call his own number when fed post-up opportunities and collected numerous offensive rebounds.

12. “I don’t think anyone can stop him down low when he puts his mind to ‘I’m going to score the ball,’” Montgomery said. “He already plays unselfishly. He’s going to rebound, he’s a good defender so we want him to keep being aggressive and good things will happen for him and our team.”

13. McCarty had the most impressive showing as a passer among the non-guards. This time, he found Henry-Hayes in corner after breaking down defense with dribble penetration.

14. German knocked down a contested, deep shot to bring the black team’s deficit to 27-25, but the white team won the second scrimmage 28-25 after a failed comeback attempt.


Key switched to the white team and Travis flipped to the black team.

1. Black starters: German, Travis, Richie, Bradley and McCarty.

2. White starters: Hankerson, Henry-Hayes, Daow, Lee, James.

3. For as energetic and up-tempo the second scrimmage was, the third scrimmage felt like a lethargic, fatigue riddled exhibition.

4. Both teams played sloppily and turned the ball over at a higher rate than the first two scrimmages.

5. Daow looked to create his own shot more, and looked more confident in doing so than he did last season, during the final scrimmage.

6. The white team won the last scrimmage in a low scoring affair.

7. “We got a little sloppy at times,” Montgomery said. “We got to make sure we take care of the ball. I still think we can improve our fast break, we can push it. It’s so early; our cuts can be harder, our defense [can be better] when we’re not letting guys in the paint. It’s a good start for us.”

Final Notes:

* If today was a reflection of how he will play this season, then it is unlikely German will lead the MAC in scoring again. He is looking to get guys more involved and develop a more well rounded game. German is more likely to average 16 points, five rebounds and 4 assists per game than he is to replicate his scoring output from last season.

* Montgomery said there are six to seven starters and he is unsure who will receive the starting nod for the first game of the season. German said he expects for himself, Thorpe, Daow and Bradley to start with the last starting spot going to either Key or James.

* It will be interesting to see how minutes are allocated and which rotations are utilized between Bradley, Demogerontas, James, McCarty and Key with all five of them being upperclassmen who are expected to receive significant playing time.