Men’s basketball hosts seven freshmen, looks forward to season


Northern Illinois University freshman guard Mike Davis attemps to score over Aurora University senior guard Joel Iventosch at the NIU Convocational Center. The Huskies defeated the Spartans 89 to 56.

By Matt Hopkinson

With seven new freshman faces on the roster this season, NIU men’s basketball will be a mixed bag.

Coach Mark Montgomery knows there will be a lot of excitement, but also a lot for his players to learn.

“There’s going to be a lot of coachable moments, probably more in practices than in games because they have enough pressure on them in games,” Montgomery said. “With young guys you just have to be positive, you have to have patience. We’re going to have our growing pains.”

Despite the possibility of youthful mistakes, Montgomery likes his new players and identifies some of their areas of strength and where they can improve.

“[Our] point guards with [Daveon] Balls and [Travon] Baker, they’re still learning the tempo and flow of college play, but they’re very unselfish players,” Montgomery said. “At the guard position with [Mike] Davis and [Akeem] Springs, they’re physically strong enough to compete at the college level, it’s just going to be more game experience. Then you take our bigs: They probably have it the toughest as they have to battle guys who have more weight on them, but I like the way they all come to practice every day.”

With both point guards on the roster being freshman, one will have to become a starter, but Balls believes there is no battle for the position between himself and fellow freshman Baker.

“We’re doing what we’re capable of doing, me and Tra,” Balls said. “We ain’t really battling for a position, we just know when we get in there, [we know] what we got to do to get the ‘W.’ If we’re in there at the same time, it’s even better.”

Offensively and defensively, Montgomery is going to look to newly-minted sophomore twins in Kevin and Keith Gray,both who he believes will be starting together.

“That’s the plan; sometimes things can change during the season,” Montgomery said. “Right now they are our most experienced bigs, they have a great feel for each other and as long as they can stay out of foul trouble they will play a lot of minutes.”

Kevin believes that he’s much more comfortable coming into this season with the returning players and has been getting a good feel for the new members.

The turmoil from last season with players leaving and a bit of unrest in the locker room has been put in the past.

This year’s squad and mentality is different, as Montgomery has been getting the new players and the returning ones to buy into what he is preaching, which was evident even in preseason action as freshman guard Springs barked out where junior forward Aksel Bolin should be on the floor.

“It doesn’t matter what year you are,” Montgomery said. “We want guys to help each other. If it’s a freshman telling a junior, great, it’s good he’s knowledgeable to know his position and someone else’s position. We’re stressing communication more this year.”