Tired Huskies squad rests for homestretch

By Wes Swietek

Coming down the homestretch, the NIU men’s basketball team is a group of tired Huskies.

With good reason.

Head coach Brian Hammel’s squad has been down to nine bodies, some healthier than others, this semester. The Huskies have managed to build a 9-13, 6-6 record so far, but the pace has taken its toll.

“We’ve been doing pretty good with our limited number of bodies,” Hammel said. “Now we need to make rest our ally, not our enemy.”

Hammel plans on making friends with rest by limiting the court time his players see, but not necessarily during games.

“We don’t have a lot of bodies for our games, but we have to remember we don’t have a lot of bodies for our practices either.

“We’ll shorten practice—instead of going hard for two hours, we’ll go hard for 90 minutes,” Hammel said.

The NIU coach concedes that mental fatigue may be more of a problem than physical tiredness.

“I’ve always said mental is to physical as two is to one. When you’re mentally tired you’re not as sharp, you don’t get the loose ball, you make lazy passes—that’s mostly mental,” Hammel said.

One Huskie who especially could be excused for being tired is freshman guard Vaurice Patterson.

After a full football season, during which Patterson caught two touchdown passes, the 6-footer has been pushed into a starting role on the basketball squad and has been logging major minutes.

“Vaurice Patterson started in August with two-a-days … then (after football season) took only five days off—I’m starting to be sensitive to that,” Hammel said.

And as for what Hammel feels his team needs to do down the homestretch, the rookie NIU coach keeps it simple. “We have to do what we do, but do it better,” he said.

NIU’s next game is Saturday (7:30 p.m.) at Valparaiso.