MARQUETTE, Mich. – With a promising group of young talent and the return of key starters, the 2011-12 edition of the Northern Michigan men’s basketball team appears to headed in the right direction.
The Wildcats are coming off a seventh place finish in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference North Division a year ago. NMU finished 9-17 overall and 4-15 in the GLIAC.
“Last season was an evaluation year for the program to see where we needed to be at,” said coach Doug Lewis.
The ‘Cats return seven letterwinners and welcome eight new players to the program. Of those new to the program, six are true freshman while two others transferred in.
Returning for NMU is senior center Jared Benson. The 2010-11 All-Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Second Team honoree led the ‘Cats last season in points per game (14.1), rebounds per game (6.6), field goal percentage (58.7), free throw percentage (79.3) and blocks (41).
“Jared is a big player and someone you can rely on,” mentioned Lewis.
NMU also adds a powerful freshman center to the lineup to back-up Benson in the 6-11 Derrick Hussinger.
“Derrick is a big player who will provide depth to the lineup and the center position,” said Lewis.
NMU welcomes in two strong forwards to the program. Junior forward T.J. Cameron is a transfer from Mott Community College, where he spent the previous two seasons guiding the Bears to a state championship and a national runner-up finish. He was selected as the Michigan Community College Athletic Association Defensive Player of the Year last season. Senior forward Rashano McRae is a transfer from NCAA-I Eastern Washington University where he was a member of the 10-11 Big Sky Academic Team.
“T.J. and Rashano will bring to the team both talent and experience,” said Lewis. “Both players know how to play on the national level.”
Also returning to the forward position is sophomore Matt Craggs and junior Joseph Simon.
Craggs started 14 games, leading the team in made threes (39) and averaging 9.8 points per game last season.
“Matt worked hard over the summer like we asked of him,” said Lewis. “He is a player that is capable of averaging a double-double.”
Freshman competing for a spot at the forward position are Kendall Jackson and Haki Stumpley.
Competing at guard are freshman Quinten Calloway, Spencer Huss, Terry Nash, Marcus Tillman-Cornett, sophomores Chris Paquin and Curtis Petit and senior DeAndre Taylor.
“We have an impressive young lineup at the guard position, especially with addition of Quinten Calloway and Terry Nash,” said Lewis.
Lewis has been impressed with the off-season work ethic of his players.
“I’m pleased with how our players worked on getting in shape during the summer and worked on the individual items that we asked of them,” said Lewis.
In terms of their schedule, the Wildcats play one exhibition game this season, as they travel on the road to take on Central Michigan University on Nov. 5. NMU opens its regular season at home on Nov.12 against UW-Superior.
The ‘Cats play a 26-game schedule this season, with a 14-game home schedule at the Berry Events Center. NMU plays a seven-game non-conference schedule, which includes contests against NCAA D-II, III, NAIA and independent opponents. One of the highlights of the schedule is a Thanksgiving Weekend tournament at the University of Indianapolis on Nov. 25-26.
The ‘Cats conclude their non-conference schedule at home Jan. 9 against Northland International.
“We have a difficult non-conference schedule with strong regional opponents,” said Lewis. “With that being said, we can compete against these teams and they will help us during the conference schedule.”
The Wildcats home conference schedule is highlighted with contests against Michigan Tech (Jan. 5), Grand Valley State (Jan. 19), Ferris State (Jan. 21) and Wayne State (Feb. 2).
“I believe that we compete in one of the strongest divisions and conferences in the country,” said Lewis. “I think we have a good shot at competing in the division this season.”
All NMU men’s basketball games can be heard on 100.3 “The Point,” the official radio station of the NMU Wildcats.
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