Cripe is NKU’s first 7-footer
Ky. - Many factors determine how successful a college basketball
team might be in a given season. First, and foremost, is the level
of talent on a roster. Secondly, and nearly as important in some
cases, is team chemistry that develops.
Last, but not
least, is good fortune. Each program needs it - whether it be an
injury-free year, a lucky shot that goes through the hoop in a crucial
game, etc. - to be in position to win a championship.
As the 2006-07
campaign approaches, Northern Kentucky University features a roster
loaded with talent and experience. Three starters return from last
season’s 17-11 team that narrowly missed earning a berth in
the NCAA Division II Tournament. The Norse also welcome in a talented
group of newcomers, including three Division I transfers.
enters his third season as NKU’s head coach looking at a roster
filled with plenty of size, experience and talent. It figures to
be the Norse’s first legitimate contender for the Great Lakes
Valley Conference championship since the 2002-03 season, when NKU
captured the GLVC Tournament title at Evansville, Ind.
moment, we have a group of players who have tremendous individual
talent,” Bezold said, “but the challenge is to combine
those talents, find the right chemistry and eventually become a
very good team. That takes some time, regardless of a team’s
have to be a little lucky, avoid injuries and win your home games
to challenge for a conference championship - especially in our league.
But I really like the depth and athletic ability we have, and it’s
going to be an interesting season.”
newcomers include James Cripe, a 7-foot, 255-pound center who played
at the University of Dayton the past three years. Cripe is the tallest
player in Norse history and is expected to provide NKU with rebounding,
scoring and interior defense.
2.6 points and 2.2 rebounds last season in 24 games for Dayton.
He scored a career-high 14 points last November as Dayton posted
a road upset at Cincinnati.
his size, James is going to help us inside,” Bezold said.
“He can also step out and make shots from the perimeter.”
Schappell averaged 11.2 ppg
newcomer is senior guard Steven Wright, a transfer from Bowling
Green State who played his prep basketball at Dayton Colonel White
High School. Wright, an outstanding backcourt performer with great
leaping ability, averaged 11.4 points per game at Bowling Green
gives us a new dimension in our backcourt with his ability to score
off the dribble, and he can flat-out jump like no guard we’ve
had since I have been at NKU,” Bezold said. “He is going
to make an immediate impact, and the fans are really going to like
the way he plays. I think Steven has a chance to be one of the top
players in our conference.”
The third Division
I transfer on the roster is 6-5 guard/forward Anthony Teague, a
long-range shooting specialist who played briefly at New Mexico.
Teague scored 10 points against Ole Miss last season while at New
As a standout
junior college player at Dodge City (Kan.), Teague averaged 17.3
ppg during the 2004-05 season.
can shoot it with anybody when he’s on, and he is going to
be a factor for us,” Bezold said.
NKU also added two talented recruits - 6-6, 235-pound junior Darral
Payton and 6-7, 210-pound freshman David Jefferson - who should
challenge for immediate playing time. Payton, a former standout
at Withrow High School in Cincinnati, played at Vincennes (Ind.)
of the top players in the state of Virginia as a senior in high
school, is an outstanding athlete who can go to the basket or shoot
from the outside.
is very strong inside, and he is going to be a presence in the post.
He can also run the floor and defend,” Bezold said. “David
Jefferson has a lot of ability, and we are really pleased to have
him. He is going to be an outstanding player.”
forget the returning veterans on the roster. Senior swingman Kevin
Schappell averaged 11.2 ppg last season en route to earning honorable
mention All-GLVC accolades. A tireless worker, Schappell led NKU
in 3-pointers made with 43. He also connected on a team-leading
82.1 percent of his free throws and was Cripe’s teammate at
Loveland High School.
did a fine job for us last year, and he’s a great worker and
competitor,” Bezold said. “His experience is going to
be very important for us. He had some great games last season, and
his outside shooting is going to be a key for us if defenses try
to sag back on our post players.”
is sophomore point guard Billy Finnell, who averaged 8.6 ppg last
season and was named GLVC Freshman of the Year. Finnell also dished
out a team-leading 123 assists.
Vincent Humphrey (8.0 ppg) started 24 times last season and emerged
as a consistent player. Humphrey made 76.9 percent of his free throws
and averaged 21 minutes per game.
and Vince both had outstanding seasons for us, and they should be
even better this year,” Bezold said. “Billy is very
good at penetrating the defense and either dishing the ball to a
teammate or going strong to the basket. Vince is a really solid
player who does a little of everything, and he is a good outside
shooter who is going to be a key for us.”
Morton is a talented junior
Harrison Morton averaged 5.4 ppg last season and could be primed
for a big year. Morton scorched eventual regional champion Southern
Illinois at Edwardsville for 26 points in the opening round of the
is such a great athlete who creates a lot of problems for defenses
because he can go by big people off the dribble or hit the outside
jumper, or he can post up smaller guards,” Bezold said. “He
was great against SIUE in that GLVC Tournament game, and we hope
he does more of that this year.”
Mark Hawkins returns after averaging 5.7 ppg last season. Hawkins
is another 3-point threat with unlimited range. A year ago, he was
38-for-94 from 3-point land.
player Travis Rasso is one of the team’s most improved players
and could make an impact. The former Boone County High School standout
enjoyed a fine summer at the Deveroes League in Cincinnati.
single-handedly won a couple of games for us last year with his
outside shooting, and he really improved a great deal from his freshman
year,” Bezold said. “Travis has a chance to be a strong
contributor for this program, and he worked very hard during the
offseason on his conditioning. His game has really improved.”
David McFarland started 21 games and emerged as a solid defensive
player for the Norse. McFarland is also a good passer who makes
guard Scott Bibbins averaged 3.3 ppg and returns. Sophomore guard
Mike Kimmey is another backcourt player who could see action this
and Mike both can help us, and we are going to have a lot of competition
for playing time,” Bezold said. "David is an excellent
defender and a good passer, and he plays with a lot of intensity."
of competition, the GLVC will provide plenty this season. Bezold
said as many as 10 teams could challenge the GLVC championship this
to go back a while to find this many really good teams in the GLVC
in one season, and it’s going to be the best league in the
country,” Bezold said. “The recruiting classes in the
GLVC for this season were incredible, and the talent in this league
is going to make every game a challenge. If you can win the GLVC
title this year, you definitely will have a shot at a national championship.”
NKU plays Cincinnati
and Xavier in exhibitions before starting the regular season Nov.
17 against Ferris State in the first round of the John L. Griffin/Lions
Club Classic. The Norse will also meet Wayne (Mich.) State on Nov.
18, giving NKU two early-season games against the Great Lakes Intercollegiate
a tough way to start the season, but we want to know how we stack
up against good teams in our region,” Bezold said, referring
to the GLIAC. “We will know in a hurry where we need to improve
because those two teams are very solid.”
NKU opens GLVC
play Nov. 21 at Bellarmine. Defending regional champion Southern
Illinois at Edwardsville visits Regents Hall on Dec. 2.