MARQUETTE — College basketball practices are in full swing and the Northern Michigan men’s team are looking to bounce back after a disappointing season last year.
The Wildcats went 9–19 last year, losing five straight to close out the season. And when there’s not much success, there’s a lot of things you can work on and the team is looking to concentrate on specific things before the upcoming season.
“Besides transition, really being able to rebound better. You look at our rebound margin last year and we were at the bottom of the conference. Rebounding is really about attitude. It’s about wanting to go get it and get it done. We’ve emphasized that here in the first couple days of practice. I really like to see how these guys respond to that. We’re doing way more, as far as getting to the basket and on the defensive end really clearing up that defensive rebound,” said NMU head coach Bill Sall.
“Just communication and holding each other accountable. We didn’t want to make excuses anymore because good teams don’t make excuses. We got the talent now. We just need to go out there and work hard and be tough. Rebounding is a big part this year. Defensively, we just got to get better as a unit. We have some individuals that can play some good defense, but if we can get everyone on the same page defensively, we can make some noise this year,” NMU guard Terry Nash said.
Full practices began on Friday and after a few days of getting back into the swing of things, there are some things that the team likes already.
“I think it’s just our team chemistry. This year, we have a lot of new guys coming in and I feel like over the summertime, a lot of guys bonded and got closer together and I feel like as a team, we’re more all in with each other so I feel like that’s a good thing we have going,” said NMU guard Jordan Perez.
“I like the speed of our play. We really talked about putting it up–tempo and trying to go at a little faster rate. Everything we’re doing we’re trying to do with speed. Our overall athleticism…I think we’ve made a nice jump up and try to pay a little more of a style that I like to play, up–tempo, and our guys enjoy that as well It’s been fun to watch them really go after it,” Sall said.
Exhibition games are meant to serve as practice for men’s college basketball teams and Northern Michigan has a special one coming up next week.
The Wildcats will take on the Finlandia Lions on October 29th and the game will be held at Negaunee High School. Coach Sall talked about how this special event was organized.
“I talked to Coach O’Donnell and we decided it would be kind of a neat thing if we bring it back to Negaunee since he was one of the best coaches ever there. And Billy Hill being an assistant coach here and playing for the state championship team. I think it’s going to be a ton of fun. Maybe get some people that may not normally go to a Northern Michigan basketball game to really check us out and see what it’s all about,”
NMU also has road exhibition games against Michigan and Michigan State, and the players understandably excited about the chance to play some powerhouse teams.
“You know growing up, everyone wanted to play Division One at those big schools so playing against coaches like Tom Izzo and Beilein, those are some legends. And being able to play against Michigan State and Michigan, those are two great programs. Michigan State was actually in the Final Four last year. It’s just a big opportunity for us to see where we are,” Nash said.
“We just got to go out there and let it out on the floor. We can’t play scared. We have nothing to lose. It doesn’t count towards our record or count towards theirs. It would be great to go into Lansing or Ann Arbor and get a ‘W’ so that’s what we want to do,” said Perez.
The Wildcats will be in East Lansing on November 4th and in Ann Arbor on November 13th. They will open the regular season on the road at Minnesota–Duluth on November 17th.