Men’s basketball depends on seniors for leadership


NIU senior guard Xavier Silas dribbles during practice Wednesday.

By Chris Dertz

Twenty wins in a season is a solid barometer of how well a college basketball program is performing.

Twenty wins in two seasons is another story entirely. After back-to-back 10-win seasons and an offseason full of roster upheaval, the NIU basketball team will prepare to open its 2010-11 campaign with an exhibition matchup against Coe College Saturday afternoon.

With the departure of key players Mike DiNunno, Jake Anderson and Sean Kowal, head coach Ricardo Patton has a number of young newcomers he’s hoping will be ready to step in and contribute immediately.

Youth will be a factor for this team all season, as there are only three seniors on the roster. Those seniors will be looked to, however, as the leaders both offensively and defensively.

Preseason All-MAC West guard Xavier Silas figures to be the catalyst for NIU’s success this season after averaging 19.7 points per game last season.

The leadership of Silas, as well as fellow seniors Michael Patton and Jeremy Landers, will be key early on as the Huskies try to gel against a non-conference schedule with a number of big-conference opponents.

NIU opens its regular season at home against Northwestern on Nov. 12, and follows that up with a game on the road at Bradley.

“We’re excited,” Patton said of his team’s non-conference schedule. “Having Northwestern come to our place and play is a tremendous complement to our program. For our fans, to have a BCS program come and play at the Convo, that’s always been our goal.”

NIU also will host Boise State on Nov. 29, and will be on the road to play two Big 12 teams in Iowa State, the team that former NIU guard Jake Anderson now plays for, and Missouri throughout the first two months of the season.

The Huskies seem to be getting excited already about the prospect of going out to take on the Cyclones, after Anderson had a less-than-amicable split with NIU’s program this offseason.

“We’re excited to go out to Ames,” said guard Michael Patton. “It’ll be good to see Jake [Anderson], again, and it’s just great to get back on the court.”