Hammel dealt a full deck in 1992-93

By Brian Wiencek

With only eight players on his 1991-92 roster, NIU men’s basketball head coach Brian Hammel managed to scrape up an 11-17 record and a 7-9 ledger in the Mid-Continent Conference (good enough for a sixth-place tie with Cleveland State) in his inaugural year.

This year’s roster is a complete shock to Hammel and his staff because it is actually full.

“We have 16 players out there on the court,” Hammel said. “When I first stepped out there on Nov. 1, I know how (Huskie football) coach (Charlie) Sadler feels, I mean, with all those players, and last year we were down to seven and eight at times. It was certainly refreshing to see a lot of bodies out there.”

The Huskies were picked by such college basketball preseason magazines as Street & Smith’s and The Sporting News to finish in the Mid-Con as high as fourth and as low as sixth. Illinois-Chicago and Wright State are the favorites for the league’s NCAA automatic bid.

Seniors David Mitchell and Randy Fens will lead the way for NIU.

Mitchell is coming off of a season that saw him average 9.3 points per game and snag four rebounds a contest. He took the Huskie award for Best Defensive Player last year with 26 steals.

Fens is the Huskies’ leading returning scorer with 10.9 points per game a year ago. He averaged 6.3 rebounds per game to go along with his 22 blocked shots. The 6-8, 240-pounder shot 50 percent from the field and 64 percent from the free-throw stripe.

NIU’s recruiting class brings five freshmen and two junior college transfers to the Huskie hardcourt. They were tabbed as the best mid-major recruiting class in the nation.

“I guess I just reflect back to what Al McGuire once said. The best thing about freshmen, boy, is that they become sophomores,” Hammel said. “And that’s kind of the way I feel now. If anything, it will keep the season interesting for us.”

Overall, Hammel is pleased with the way his ballclub is forming before its preseason battle Tuesday with the Czechoslovakian National Team.

The 1992-93 nonconference schedule includes a road date with Texas A&M and home matchups with Loyola, Southern Illinois and Idaho State. To the dismay of the student body, the Huskies play four home games during the winter break.

Surprisingly, the Huskies play only two home games in the month of January, but they make up for that in February with six home matches, including a string of four in a row at the beginning of the month.