Nov. 2, 2012
DEKALB, Ill. -- Second-year head coach Mark Montgomery and the Northern Illinois men’s basketball team will host Aurora University in an exhibition contest on Saturday night at 7 p.m., at the NIU Convocation Center. Saturday’s exhibition follows the 2:30 p.m., football game against Massachusetts. Fans can receive $1 admission to the basketball game with a ticket stub from the football game.
“It will be the first public appearance for the 2012-13 squad, so we just want the guys to go out and play hard, make a stance on the defensive side of the ball, make sure we share the ball on the offensive end and have some fun too,” said Montgomery. “You can’t show everything that you have been working hard on throughout the summer and fall in one exhibition, so we just want to continue to make steps in the right direction toward our season opener at Nebraska Omaha next Friday.”
Montgomery and the Huskies return their top-five scorers and top-six rebounders from last season, while also welcoming eight newcomers into the fold. Earlier this week, sophomore wing Abdel Nader (Skokie, Ill./Niles North) was named to the Preseason All-MAC West Division team while the Huskies were tabbed to finish fifth in the MAC West. Nader is the leading returning scorer for the Huskies, averaging 10.4 points per game, the 6-foot-7 wing averaged 11.5 points per contest in conference play.
The Huskies also return last season’s leading rebounder in junior forward Aksel Bolin (Asker, Norway/Asker). Bolin averaged 5.1 boards per contest as season ago while also scoring 6.2 points per game. Senior guard Tony Nixon (South Holland, Ill./Seton Academy) will look to pick up where he left off last season, Nixon averaged 9.9 points per game over the final eight games of the 2011-12 campaign.
Junior guard Antone Christian (Nashville, Tenn./Martin Luther King Magnet) along with sophomore forwards Keith Gray (Chicago, Ill./Brooks Academy) and Kevin Gray (Chicago, Ill./Brooks Academy) round out the returning letterwinners for the Huskies. Christian averaged 5.2 points and 3.2 rebounds per contest a season ago while the Gray twins were both among the leading rookie rebounders in the MAC last season. Kevin Gray was third among conference freshmen with 3.7 rebounds per game while Keith Gray was fourth, grabbing 3.1 boards per contest.
With eight newcomers to blend into their returning nucleus, and just a week to go until the regular season opener, Montgomery likes the progress he has seen from his group so far.
“I think we have made strides every since we have been back in school, with individual workouts and team practice,” Montgomery said. “You have to put a lot together in a month, official practice only started three weeks ago and now we are already to our first exhibition. I think our guys have improved each and every day, they come in early, they stay late and you will definitely see a sense of togetherness and commitment from this year’s team.”
Saturday’s opponent, Aurora University, finished last season with a 13-13 overall record, 8-8 in the Northern Athletics Conference. The Spartans return last season’s leading scorer Scott Laskowski, the 6-foot-5 forward averaged 15.3 points and 8.5 rebounds per contest a season ago.
The Spartans will have a pair of familiar faces on the sidelines on Saturday. Former Huskie great Rodney Davis (1985-88) and NIU football color commentator Mark Lindo each serve as assistant coaches under head coach James Lancaster.
Basketball season tickets are on sale now, including the combined men’s and women’s season ticket which gives fans 27 games for just $126.
Also available this season is the Huskie Value Pack, featuring 10 general admission vouchers redeemable for any NIU men’s or women’s basketball game for just $30. In honor of the 10th anniversary of the Convocation Center, Huskie Value Packs are available for just $10 until the end of the calendar year (December 31).
Season tickets for NIU men’s basketball are available to the general public for just $99, or $86 for NIU football season ticket holders, faculty/staff or seniors. Season tickets reserve Huskie fans the same seats for all 15 Huskie men’s home games this season at a 33 percent discount over single game prices. Courtside season tickets are also available for $399.
Fans can purchase season tickets by calling (815) 753-1923 or logging on to www.NIUHuskies.com/tickets.