Men’s basketball back to the grind

By Brian Belford

NIU men’s basketball officially began to prepare for the season as it played its red and black scrimmage Saturday.

The Huskies played six quarters of basketball with MAC officials calling the game, switching sides often to simulate different situations, and to get different teammates used to playing with each other.

With the start of the season less than three weeks away, NIU head coach Mark Montgomery was happy with what his squad showed.

“They played hard, took care of the ball and shared it,” Montgomery said. “We had a good fast break going when they were fresh. [We] looked to get the ball inside, even with an almost four-guard lineup. I thought some of our cuts were good, and we made the extra pass, which was nice. All in all, I thought our guys played pretty well with about a week to go until the season starts.”

The Huskies are a little rusty, and have a lot to work on before the season tips off.

“We still have to work on taking care of the ball,” Montgomery said. “We have to be alert. We have to work on our shooting, and we still have to work on our defense.”

NIU senior forward Tim Toler agreed that the defense needs to be improved.

“Defense is the biggest thing we need to work on,” Toler said. “We have a lot of guys who can’t shoot the ball, but defensively, we need to continue to get better every day, and if we can do that, will help us became a great team.”

Of the Huskies’ 14 players, eight of them are true freshmen. As the season approaches, the freshmen will have to learn fast, but experienced players like Toler and sophomore guard Antone Christian will help guide the youngsters.

“They have to grow up quick because there are a lot of them, but they are very talented, very humble,” Christian said. “They’re like sponges; they pick up on things quickly.”

Toler said the most important skill the freshmen can learn at this point is learn to breathe easy.

“They need to take their time,” Toler said. “It’s a game of runs; once one team gets tough, the young guys automatically think they have to run up and down the court. You can’t get into that type of game. So we just have to try and teach them to relax and just take their time.”