Oct. 22, 2001
NKU SEEKS NCAA BERTH IN 2001-02
Norse hope solid veterans, talented recruits lead to GLVC title
HIGHLAND HEIGHTS, Ky. - As Ken Shields begins his 14th season as head coach at Northern Kentucky University, its difficult for him to make predictions about his 2001-02 Norse.
Questions abound, and only time will provide answers.
We have talent, but we also lost some very good players who were key to last seasons success, Shields said. We do not have a great deal of experience, so it is going to be interesting to see how the younger players and recruits fill in.
NKU returns just four letterwinners from last seasons 27-7 team that nearly earned a trip to the NCAA Division II Elite Eight. Gone from that team is NKU all-time career assists leader Craig Conley, who averaged 12.5 points per game last season. Also missing are inside stalwarts Adam Norwell and Todd Clark, along with guard Brian Lawhon and his 1,267 career points.
The good news for NKU is the return of leading scorer Craig Sanders, who averaged 17.6 ppg and earned first team All-GLVC honors. Sanders made a school-record 114 three-point shots last season scored in double figures during the Norses final 20 games. He enters his senior year with 1,459 career points.
Craig Sanders had a tremendous season as a junior, and he was very deserving of being first team All-GLVC, Shields said. His three-point shooting was incredible in several games last season, and there is no question he is one of the top shooters in the nation.
Also returning is 6-9 senior forward Carl Mitchell, who averaged 12.3 ppg and a team-leading 6.1 rebounds per game. Mitchell led NKU with 48 blocked shots and also made 33 three-point shots.
The biggest key to our season could be Carl Mitchell, because he has the ability to be an outstanding player, Shields said. He played very well at times last season, but we need production from him every game this year.
Bobby St-Preux, a 6-5 guard/forward, could provide the Norse with another outstanding scorer. St-Preux averaged 19 points at Palm Beach Community College two years ago. He sat out as a redshirt last season.
Bobby is a tremendous athlete, and we believe he can step in and be an immediate factor this season, Shields said. Bobby is a good shooter and scorer, and he is going to be a very good player.
Sophomore Jesse Rupe, a 6-10 post player who sat out as a redshirt last season, will challenge for significant playing time in 2001-02. Rupe averaged 2.2 points and saw action in 23 games as a freshman two years ago.
Jesse has worked at becoming a stronger player, and he is an outstanding athlete, Shields said. There is an opportunity for him to play a big role for us this season, and we need his size inside.
Junior Brenden Stowers could assume the role of point guard this season. Stowers averaged 8.2 ppg last season and dished out 76 assists. His quickness and experience make him the No. 1 candidate to replace Conley. Stowers younger brother, Jordan, could also challenge for the point guard role.
Brenden played his best basketball late last season, and we expect that to carry over into this season, Shields said. Brenden can shoot the ball, but he is also very good at breaking down a defense.
Jordan Stowers is a pure point guard, and he's going to be a very good player for us.
Junior college transfer Darnell Fields should provide immediate help for the Norse. Fields, a 6-8 forward with tremendous skills, figures to be one of NKUs top offensive players.
Darnell is an exceptionally gifted offensive player, and he can be an impact player in this conference, Shields said. He can shoot the three-pointer or score off the dribble, and we think Darnell is going to be a very good player.
Redshirt freshmen guards Mike Kelsey and Sean Rowland - a pair of teammates at Elder High School in Cincinnati two years ago - will provide depth in the backcourt. Kelsey is a shooting guard with good three-point range, and Rowland can play either the point or shooting guard.
Mike and Sean can help us this season, Shields said. They both understand the game, and they come from a very good high school program at Elder.
Junior forward Damon Miller, a transfer from Shawnee (Ill.) College, could also be a factor for NKU. Miller averaged 15 points and eight rebounds while playing at Shawnee. Junior guard Josh Murphy adds depth and experience to the roster.
If the right chemistry develops, this could be a very fine team, Shields said. There is plenty of talent, and its going to be an interesting season.
NKU will open up the 2001-02 season Nov. 10 at 8:05 p.m. against the University of Cincinnati in an exhibition game at Shoemaker Center.
NKU has not played UC since the 1988-89 season, when the Bearcats posted a 75-63 victory over the Norse. UC leads the all-time series with NKU, 7-0.
NKU begins the regular season Nov. 16 in the 20th annual John L. Griffin/Lions Club Classic against Ferris State University in Regents Hall. Christian Brothers (Tenn.) University will face Central State University in the other first-round game of that tournament.
NKU will host NCAA Division II national champion Kentucky Wesleyan College on Dec. 6 in Regents Hall. On Dec. 8, perennial NCAA Division II national power University of Southern Indiana will visit Regents Hall for a 7:45 p.m. game against the Norse.
NKU will also visit Southern Indiana on Jan. 24, and the Norse travel to Owensboro, Ky., on Feb. 16 to meet Kentucky Wesleyan.