Huskies banking on security for new year

By Rob Bolton

Last year, hope defined men’s basketball at NIU.

This year, security is the operative word.

With a new head coach and nine players, one of whom was recruited from the residence halls, the NIU men’s basketball team lacked everything it took to achieve a successful season.

Except heart.

In fact, halfway through last year’s 11-17 campaign, head coach Brian Hammel was rumored to have dibs on the Mid-Continent Conference Coach of the Year.

That didn’t happen, but it didn’t stop the now sophomore skipper from bulking up and filling up the roster.

Tuesday marked the second time around when Hammel spoke to the media types for the NIU Men’s Basketball Media Luncheon. He was excited, encouraging and ready to play.

“Our guys are in tremendous condition,” Hammel admitted. “It was a rigorous preseason schedule that we had (for the) conditioning plan, and we lost two weeks, so we didn’t want to do a lot of conditioning throughout practice. … If we had to play a game right now, we would be at a level that would be certainly up to game tempo.”

Now, because of the arrival or return (redshirt, Prop 48) of 11 players for this season to add to the six returners who finished last season, the Huskies can afford to tire out a little. In other words, the bench is deeper and substitutions can be made more frequently than last year. Hammel needn’t wonder if the boys on the bench want to rest; just when they want to play.

“But I think the challenge for our staff,” conceded Hammel, “is obviously to take these newcomers that we have and the returnees and mold them as quickly as possible.”

The clock keeps on tickin‘ while the days fall away.

‘We makes me stronger’ is the motto now.

The change has been made, the time has passed, the NIU men’s basketball team is ready to begin.

What a difference a little security makes.