Huskies relying on new faces to rebound from last season


NIU men’s basketball head coach Ricardo Patton addresses the media during the team’s media day, Wednesday.

By Chris Dertz

Player turnover is a universal challenge to college coaches, but not many teams have undergone a roster upheaval like NIU men’s basketball head coach Ricardo Patton undertook this offseason.

After the departure of key players in guards Mike DiNunno and Jake Anderson, as well as post players Michael Fakuade and Sean Kowal, NIU looked to be a team without any answers.

But Patton hit the recruiting trail, and brought in a class of six players who both he and the team feel can step in immediately and have an impact. While some of the players Patton landed look good on paper, he’s been even more pleased with how they’ve looked on the practice court.

“I compare recruiting to a marriage,” Patton said. “Sometimes you don’t know what you have until you live with it for a while.”

After summer workouts and getting to practice, Patton feels as though the new guys have bought in rather quickly.

The player who appears to be the prize catch of this class, point guard Kyree Jones, hasn’t been on the court due to injury.

But that has created an opportunity for players like Cameron Madlock, Tim Toler and Nate Rucker to stand out in practice.

“Cameron Madlock and Tim Toler, you haven’t seen them yet,” said NIU guard Xavier Silas. “Cam is a real long, defensive guy. He’s skilled in the post; more than you would think. Tim Toler, he’s really versatile: he can shoot outside and he can score in the paint, so I’m really excited about those guys.”

With all the attention that will be on the six newcomers at the beginning of the season, especially when the dynamic scorer in Jones returns, there are some players who may benefit from being under the radar.

Silas raved about the play of Bryan Hall at point guard, but also mentioned a possible dark horse player in European guard Aksel Bolin.

“Bolin is a true wing, a shooter, he’s very Euro,” Silas said. “He’s a deadly shooter. He’s taller than me, so he’s like 6’7’’, a long guy and he’ll be able to help because he can knock down open shots.”