Nov. 1, 2013
DEKALB, Ill. – The Northern Illinois University men’s basketball team opens its 2013-14 slate on Saturday, Nov. 2, when the Huskies host Rockford University in an exhibition contest at 5 p.m., at the NIU Convocation Center.
“It’s always exciting to put on your game uniform,” said third-year NIU head coach Mark Montgomery. “This is our first chance to show what we have worked on in the spring, summer and fall. The exhibition is a benchmark; it means we are a week away from our regular season home opener. It’s another day to get better, a day to be challenged by a different team and to see if we can execute our offense, our game plan and play in front of a crowd.”
The Huskies return eight letterwinners and four starters from a season ago, led by seniors Antone Christian (Nashville, Tenn./Martin Luther King Magnet) and Aksel Bolin (Asker, Norway/Asker). Also returning for the Huskies is wing Darrell Bowie (Milwaukee, Wis./La Jolla Prep), one of the top freshmen in the MAC last season. Bowie averaged 7.4 points, sixth-best among MAC freshmen, and 4.4 rebounds, four-most among MAC rookies, during conference play last season.
A trio of sophomore guards return for the Huskies in Travon Baker (Detroit, Mich./Detroit Consortium), Daveon Balls (Indianapolis, Ind./Lawrence North) and J.J. Cravatta (Streator, Ill./Streator Township). Baker averaged 1.4 steals per game last season as a freshman, the 10th-best mark in the MAC.
This season’s roster features a significant increase in size, with five players 6-foot-8 or taller. Junior forwards Keith and Kevin Gray (Chicago, Ill./Brooks Academy) are the only returnees among the Huskie big men, they are joined by 6-foot-9 local product Jordan Threloff (DeKalb, Ill./DeKalb), who spent three seasons at Illinois State but is eligible immediately, 6-foot-10 freshman Marin Maric (Split, Croatia/La Lumiere School) and 6-foot-11 Pete Rakosevic (Chicago, ill./Wilbraham & Monson/Sacramento State), who sat out last season following his transfer from Sacramento State.
Other new faces in the Huskie lineup include brothers Aaron Armstead (Chicago, Ill./Hales Franciscan/San Jose City College) and Aaric Armstead (Chicago, Ill./La Jolla Prep). Aaron, a junior, comes to NIU from San Jose City College while Aaric, a freshman, spent last season at La Jolla Prep in La Jolla, Calif. The duo helped Hales Franciscan win the Illinois Class 2A State Championship in 2011. NIU also welcomes 6-foot-2 guard Dontel Highsmith (Dowagiac, Mich./Dowagiac), who was a finalist for Michigan Mr. Basketball a season ago.
Two Huskies spent time this past summer representing their countries internationally. Bolin played for Norway at the World University Games in Kazan, Russia, averaging 5.1 points and 3.1 rebounds per game, while Maric played for his native Croatia at the FIBA U19 World Championships, averaging 6.1 points and 3.6 rebounds per game.
Saturday’s exhibition is part of a tripleheader of Huskie sports at the Convocation Center as the NIU women’s basketball team hosts Lewis University in an exhibition at 1 p.m., and the volleyball team hosts Miami (Ohio) at 7 p.m.
Tickets for the 2013-14 NIU men’s basketball season are available now, with season ticket plans starting as low as $86. For more information or to purchase season tickets call the NIU Athletic Ticket Office at 815-753-PACK (7225) or log on to NIUHuskies.com/tickets.