Oct. 22, 2003
NORSE TO FEATURE LONG-RANGE SHOOTERS
NKU figures to be one of the top three-point shooting teams in nation
HIGHLAND HEIGHTS, Ky. - Take a look at any NCAA Division II mens basketball preseason poll, and Northern Kentucky University is conspicuously absent from the nations Top 25.
Even the Great Lakes Valley Conference preseason poll has NKU placed firmly in the middle of the pack, with the league coaches picking the Norse to finish fifth.
Those polls should provide plenty of motivational material for NKU head coach Ken Shields as he enters his 16th and final season as the Norse mentor. Shields has announced he will retire at the end of the 2003-04 season, and he would like nothing better than to prove the preseason prognosticators wrong in his last year.
Shields must replace four key players from last seasons 25-6 squad that captured the GLVC Tournament championship and finished with a No. 4 national ranking. Among the missing are All-American guard and leading scorer Brenden Stowers, All-GLVC forward Quentin Smith, starting forward Bobby St-Preux and powerful center Chris Seabrooks.
That group accounted for 63 percent of NKUs scoring a year ago, and they also combined for 62 percent of the Norses rebounding total.
We did lose a very gifted group of players from last season, and its going to be a challenge to replace them, Shields said. We won the GLVC title, made the NCAA Tournament and won 25 games, so our seniors from last year did a great job.
We do return some good players, though, and this is going to be an interesting team to watch. I think we are going to be a very good perimeter shooting team, and if we get solid interior play, we can be a very good team.
NKU returns two starters and five letterwinners from its GLVC championship team. The Norse will feature junior guard Mike Kelsey, who averaged 14.5 points per game last season.
Kelsey, known as Walt to teammates, made a team-leading 81 three-point shots last season. The Elder High School graduate enters 2003-04 with 656 career points, which ranks No. 43 in Norse history.
Walt elevated his game to another level playing in the (Cincinnati) summer league, and he is going to be an outstanding player this season, Shields said. He is a tireless worker, he understands the game and is just an outstanding young man.
NKU figures to be one of the top three-point shooting teams in the nation, and for good reason. In addition to Kelsey, NKU also returns senior guard Adam Howell (5.3 ppg), who made 35 of 84 attempts from three-point range last season.
Newcomers Steve Purdon, Brian Lewin, Kevin Schappell and Jared Ronai are also capable of effectively shooting the three-pointer. Purdon is a transfer from Union (Ky.) College, where he averaged 16.8 ppg two years ago.
A graduate of Covington Catholic High School, Purdon made 79 of 215 three-point attempts during the 2001-02 season at Union and was the Bulldogs leading scorer.
Lewin and Schappell sat out as redshirts last season, but both players can provide instant offense from the outside. Lewin, a 6-foot-7 forward and a fine three-point shooter, starred at Covington Catholic High School. Schappell was one of the top prep players in Cincinnati two years ago at Loveland High School and is another tremendous three-point shooter. Ronai is a quick point guard who can pass or score.
We have some outstanding three-point shooters, and Purdon and Schappell both have great range, Shields said. The ability to shoot is one of our teams strengths, and we hope to take advantage of that fact.
Sean Rowland and Jordan Stowers provide experience for NKU at point guard. Rowland is a tenacious defender who can guard forwards or post players. Stowers earned 23 starts last season and dished out 60 assists while committing just 22 turnovers. He also hit the winning shot against the University of Southern Indiana during the GLVC Tournament semifinals.
The Norse return senior center Jesse Rupe, who averaged 6.6 ppg and 4.5 rebounds per contest last season. Rupe has added more muscle to his 6-foot-10 frame, and he will be a key performer inside.
Jesse Rupe really worked on his game this summer, and hes going to play a big role inside, Shields said. Our interior game has to compliment our outside shooting, and Jesse has the talent to be a big factor in our conference.
A pair of transfers - 6-9 junior center Pat Cary and 6-7 junior center Adrian Wilkinson - are also expected to provide inside scoring and rebounding this season.
Cary played at Division III Wilmington (Ohio) College for two seasons before transferring to NKU, and he averaged 12.3 ppg two years ago for the Quakers. He also made 56.7 percent of his shots from the field and averaged 5.3 rebounds per game.
Wilkinson started his college career at Wilberforce University in 1999 and averaged 4.0 ppg and 4.0 rpg. He scored a career-high 22 points against Ashland University as a freshman. He also attended Wright State University (did not compete due to a knee injury) and Sinclair Community College, where he averaged 7.0 ppg and 5.1 rpg.
A 1999 graduate of Northmont (Ohio) High School, Wilkinson averaged 15 ppg and 9.1 rpg as a senior. He also set a Northmont school record as a senior by shooting 63.5 percent from the field.
Freshman forward Kevin Reinhardt has been impressive in preseason practice and could see significant playing time. A good leaper who can drive to the basket, Reinhardt sat out as a redshirt last season after enjoying an outstanding prep career at Campbell County High School.
If we get the inside scoring and rebounding, this can be a very good team, Shields said. We might surprise some people this season. We did lose a great senior class, but I like the maturity of this team, and they are going to play hard at all times.
NKU begins the season at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 1 with an exhibition game at the University of Cincinnati. The Norse will open the regular season against Kennesaw (Ga.) State University on Nov. 7 at the Disney Division II Tip-Off Classic at Lake Buena Vista, Fla.