Team to capitalize with depth


NIU men’s basketball head coach Brian Hammel looks at his team and see’s only one thing: depth everywhere.

“I think depth going into the season is certainly one of our strong points,” he said. “We have an awful lot of guys who can play some pretty good basketball.”

As a result, Hammel is left with the pleasant decision of who to start. Though he has said that he’s more concerned with who finishes a game rather than who starts one, he get’s to decide on that too. It’s really a nice setup.

Among his choices include two newcomers that could really make an impact on the league, Thomas Cook and Ronald Minter.

Both are guards who could be valuable assets to Hammel off the bench.

“Both of those guys have an opportunity to contribute this year as freshmen, I would think,” Hammel said.

Cook graduated from Hillcrest Hills High School in Country Club Hills. As a senior he averaged 15 points, four rebounds and 3.1 assists per game.

His jump shot is flawless and he has excellent range, but Hammel say’s he needs more strength on the court.

“He’s a very good shooter,” Hammel said. “But he needs to get a little stronger and do a better job of playing without the basketball.”

Minter is a point guard out of King High School. He averaged only six points a game, but shot 53 percent from the floor and is a 78.5 percent free throw shooter. Plus he averaged four steals and 4.2 assists a game.

“Ronnie’s come from a tremendous high school program,” Hammel commented. “He has good point guard instincts. He’s very unselfish and has a very, very low ego level which I think is critical for that position. I think he can add value immediately as a freshman.”

Both will be counted on to improve some of the glaring flaws in the Huskie offense. Hammel cited both field goal percentage and turnovers as the biggest weaknesses the Huskies faced last season.

“Any great team is going to handle the basketball. Any good team, for the most part is going to shoot well,” Hammel explained. “There were absolutely way too many turnovers. I think any time you have more turnovers (395) than assists (324), you are on a collision course with failure.”

Top returners on the team include forwards Hubert Register, and Mike Hartke. Guards Randy Tucker, Mike Lipnisky, Vaurice Patterson, Chad Weeks, Tim O’Rourke and Russ Lipinski. And Centers Scott Peterson and, fan favorite Steve Oldendorf.

Lipnisky is a coaches dream. Loaded with talent with the desire to win and the tough-mindedness to go with it.

Patterson will return to the team now that the football season is over, he is one of NIU quarterback Scott Crabtree’s favorite targets.

Register had a tremendous season last year after being sidelined early in the season with a broken bone in his left foot.

Oldendorf, all 7-foot-1-inch of him, will be back to take on Mid-Con defenders and Hammel believes “Oly” will make his presence felt throughout the whole 40-minute game.

“We have a lot of weapons,” Hammel said. “Our job now is to fit it all together and bring the best five that play together out there for a good amount of time.”

“Both (Cook and Minter) have an opportunity to contribute this year as freshman, I would think.”

Brian Hammel

head coach, NIU men’s basketball