DeKalb, Ill. - The Northern Illinois men's basketball team opens its first season under new Huskie head coach Ricardo Patton, as the Huskies travel to Cedar Falls, Iowa to participate in the BTI Tip-Off Tourney, hosted by Northern Iowa, for three games, beginning with Friday's season-opener against the host Panthers (8:15 p.m. CST). The Huskies face UMass on Saturday afternoon at 5:45 p.m. (CST) and Cal-Poly on Sunday at 2 p.m. (CST).
The Huskies completed their exhibition campaign with a record of 2-0 against nationally-ranked Division III opponents No. 13 Aurora (87-70) and No. 5 Augustana (77-63). NIU senior forward Shaun Logan led the Huskies in both scoring (12.0 ppg.) and rebounding (8.0 rpg.) during the preseason.
Northern Iowa was 2-0 during the preseason with a pair of victories over Wayne State (72-60) and Bemidji State (79-61). Panther senior reserves Eric Coleman (13.0 ppg.) and Adam Viet (12.5 ppg.) led UNI scoring, while 7-1 sophomore center Jordan Eglseder added 11.5 points and eight boards in the two victories.
Season Lidlifters: Since the 2000-01 campaign, Northern Illinois is 3-4 in the Huskie season-openers. First-year NIU head coach Ricardo Patton was a perfect 11-0 in season openers at Colorado. In NIU history,
All-Time Series: Northern Iowa leads the all-time series over the Huskies, 11-8. In their last meeting, NIU earned the 76-63 overtime triumph over the Panthers in the MCC Tournament Semifinals on March 4, 1991. NIU seniors Donnell Thomas (27 points) and Donald Whiteside (23 points) combined for 50 points in the victory.
Huskies By The Numbers: The NIU men's basketball team has 19 players on its roster, 17 of whom are roster eligible, nine newcomers, one redshirt junior, one redshirt freshman and eight players that saw game action for the Huskies in 2006-07.
Lost Long Range: Senior Zach Pancratz will sit out the 2007-08 season after undergoing left shoulder surgery to correct continued instability in his non-shooting arm. Last season, Pancratz led NIU with 51 trifectas.
Piece of the Boulder: Sophomore center Sean Kowal made the trip to DeKalb along with head coach Ricardo Patton after appearing in 27 games for Colorado as a rookie last season. Kowal must sit for the 2007-08 season, as per NCAA Transfer Guidelines.
Traveling Men: While there are 17 roster-eligible players on the Huskies, Coach Patton is expected to travel anywhere from 13 to 15 players on the road.
They Call Me: NIU freshman guard Darion Anderson also goes by the nickname "Jake".
Patton's Prodigy: NIU head coach Ricardo Patton has a familiar face on the squad as his son, Michael, is a walk-on freshman point guard for the Huskies. In two preseason games, Michael averaged five points and two assists for the Huskies. Patton's other son, Ricardo Jr., is a sophomore defensive back for the Huskie football team.
Recruiting Class: Patton's first recruiting class includes 6-5 sophomore forward Najul Ervin (Memphis, Tenn. / Kankakee C.C.), 6-2 freshman guard Jeremy Landers (Milwaukee, Wis. / Murphysboro (Ill.) / Genesis One (Miss.) and junior forward Sean Smith (Gary, Ind. / Westside / Vincennes J.C.).
The Butler Did It: Assistant Coach John Anderson's son, Jerametrius Butler, is a cornerback for the Buffalo Bills. Butler recorded his first career collegiate interception for Kansas State against Northern Illinois.
Martial Artist: NIU head coach Ricardo Patton has a fifth-degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do.
Coach Gaters: Redshirt freshman forward Darrius Gaters is the grandson of legendary high school basketball coach Dorothy Gaters. Gaters is the winningest girls basketball coach in Illinois history, totaling 794 victories at Chicago Marshall.
Big Hart: Senior walk-on Michael Hart had been dominating the NIU Recreation Center for the past three years, but decided to test his mettle and joined the Huskie basketball team at the beginning of the school year. Hart, who stands 6-foot-7, did not disappoint in the preseason, as the Bolingbrook, Illinois native averaged 11.5 points and shot 81.8% (9-for-11) from the field, while only averaging 14.5 minutes-per-game.
Non-Conference Slate: There is no easing into the Mid-American Conference schedule as the Huskies' non-conference opponents, led by 2007 `Sweet 16' participant Southern Illinois, averaged 19.6 wins during the `06-'07 campaign.
Full Strength: NIU senior swingman Ben Rand looks to be at full strength after undergoing two knee surgeries and missing 19 of the Huskies' last 33 contests since the 2005-06 campaign.
Where Are They Now?: Last year's senior class of James Hughes and Mike McKinney are continuing their basketball careers professionally as both are playing overseas. Hughes is currently playing for Energa Czarni in Poland, while McKinney is competing for Maccabi Haifi in Israel's National League.
Home Opener: Northern Illinois will open its home campaign on Saturday, November 24, as they will welcome Stephen F. Austin to the NIU Convocation Center for a 7 p.m. tip-off.
Go-Go Guards: The trio of senior Ryan Paradise, sophomore Cody Yelder and freshman Michael Patton found the open man and took care of the ball during the preseason as they dished out a total of 19 assists to just seven turnovers.
Peaks And The Valley: NIU is 93-153 all-time in contests against teams from the Missouri Valley Conference. The Huskies' last victory over an MVC opponent came on November 26, 2003 in a 66-55 win over Illinois State.