Basketball preps for fresh start

By Tom Burton

DeKALB | The men’s basketball team will look to build on a successful 2015-16 season in which it competed in the Mid-American Conference championship game and in the Vegas-16 tournament in March.

The team finished the season with a 21-13 overall record while going 18-1 at home. Head Coach Mark Montgomery said he is stressing the new season, and the team cannot get too comfortable coming off its successful season. The players need to take the season one day at a time.

“Part of the [season-long] journey is that it’s a process,” Montgomery said. “I try to tell the new guys and the young guys that you can’t end where you ended last year and just turn the page, and all of a sudden, we’re in the postseason.”

The team has three returning double-digit scorers, including two seniors, guard Aaric Armstead and center Marin Maric.

Montgomery said the success of this year’s ball club begins with the senior players on the team.

“At this point, we’re just trying to bring everything together and into form to start off the season,” Armstead said. “We just need to get everyone to start working together and operating as one so we can get off to a good start to the season.”

Montgomery said Armstead is the most versatile player on the roster this season, as he will be one of the players who will look to fill the void of last year’s senior guard Travon Baker.

“I would say that my shooting and passing has definitely improved,” Armstead said. “I’ve also improved on the intangible things like getting my team involved and being a good leader.”

The injury bug hit the men’s basketball team as junior guard Dontel Highsmith will be returning after missing the last two seasons due to two anterior cruciate ligament tears and surgies. Redshirt junior center Andrew Zelis tore his knee on the first day of practice and is out for the season.

“[Zelis] was coming off a strong summer and a great fall where he was in great shape,” Montgomery said. “He will be greatly missed.”

Montgomery said he realizes the skill in the underclassman players with sophomore forward Jaylen Key and sophomore guard Marshawn Wilson, and with a small amount of upperclassman on the team the younger players will be relied upon this season.

“I thought they all had incredible freshman years,” Montgomery said. “Now it’s time to take their game to another level.”

Montgomery said he and the coaching staff are looking forward to the start of a new season and to try to implement the same strategies that brought so much success last season.

“I’m excited, I really am,” Montgomery said. “It’s now time to turn the page and start a new chapter.”

The season begins Nov. 7 against Indiana State University at the Convocation Center, 1525 W Lincoln Hwy, DeKalb, IL 60115.