Oct. 20, 2004
NKU BEGINS NEW ERA UNDER BEZOLD
Norse mens basketball team to feature Kelsey, talented newcomers
HIGHLAND HEIGHTS, Ky. - Hes played the role perfectly so far, whether it be attending booster functions, talking to the media or just shaking hands with members of the community to stir up interest in his program.
As Dave Bezold will tell anyone, being the mens basketball head coach at Northern Kentucky University is a time-consuming job. Even during the off-season, if such a thing exists in college basketball, theres always something to keep a head coach on the run.
But the first-year Norse mentor would have it no other way.
I knew it would keep me busy, said Bezold, who was hired April 22 to replace the retired Ken Shields as NKUs head coach. At times, it seems like you do everything except basketball, but its all part of the job. Im very comfortable with it, and Im looking forward to starting the season and actually coaching.
Bezold, who spent 14 years as an assistant coach with the Norse, inherits four starters from last seasons 16-15 squad that lost in the first round of the Great Lakes Valley Conference Tournament. NKU placed seventh in the GLVC standings with a 9-11 record and missed the NCAA Division II Tournament for just the third time in the past 10 years.
Bezold welcomes in an impressive group of newcomers, including two Division I transfers. Combine those players with the veterans from last season, and Bezold expects his team to be a factor in the GLVC this season.
When you talk about the GLVC, you are speaking of the best Division II basketball conference in the nation, and its going to be more of the same this season, he said. I think we can compete with everyone. Its a matter of people stepping up and playing better defense, getting the big rebound late in the game and meshing the newcomers into our system.
One player who knows the system well is senior guard Mike Kelsey, who enters the season with 1,130 career points. Kelsey averaged 16.9 points per game last season and was named second team All-GLVC.
Kelsey made 83 of 202 three-point attempts last season, with many of those shots being launched from at least 25 feet. He also set an NKU single-game scoring record last season when he poured in 50 points against the University of Indianapolis.
Kelsey is the best long-range shooter in the GLVC, and he is definitely an All-America candidate this season, Bezold said. You will not find a better competitor than Mike Kelsey, and we expect a great deal from him this season.
Kelsey, a graduate of Elder High School in Cincinnati, has connected on 206 three-point shots during his career at NKU. He scored in double figures 26 times last season and had eight games of at least 20 points.
Bezold has added center Tory Reed and guard Bryant Northern, a pair of transfers from Conference USA schools, to take some of the scoring load off Kelsey. They are also expected to help offset the loss of graduated center Jesse Rupe and his 15.8 ppg.
Reed, a 6-foot-8 senior, averaged 3.6 points per game at Charlotte during the 2002-03 season. He scored 13 points against Cincinnati that season, and he added an 11-point, nine-rebound effort against Louisville in 2003. In three years at Charlotte, Reed played in 77 games, averaged 2.8 ppg and 2.2 rebounds while shooting 48 percent from the field.
Northern, a 6-1 senior guard, averaged 3.2 ppg at Louisville two years ago. He scored 18 points against Ohio State that season and made 93.3 percent (14-for-15 shooting) of his free throws. As a sophomore at Louisville, Northern scored in double figures 10 times, including a career-high 25 points against Texas Christian University. In that game, Northern made six three-point shots.
Tory is going to provide us with an inside presence, and he is a good passer in the post, Bezold said. Bryant is quick and a tremendous athlete who can defend. He gives us an added dimension in the backcourt with his ability to score off the dribble. We are expecting Tory and Bryant to be key players, without a doubt.
Two other newcomers could also be keys this season. Freshman forward Harrison Morton, a prep standout from Lexington Catholic High School, averaged 16.1 ppg, 6.4 rebounds and 2.5 steals as a senior. He was named first team all-state. Morton was also selected to play in the Kentucky-Indiana all-star series this past summer.
The Norse also add 6-5 forward Derek Smith, a former tight end on the University of Kentucky football team. Smith was an all-state forward while a prep player at Highlands High School and averaged 21 ppg as a senior. He was also named the 9th Region Player of the Year in 1999.
Smith scored 2,299 points and pulled down 974 rebounds for Highlands in four years as a varsity starter. He then chose to play football at Kentucky.
Harrison is a great defender who can really get up and down the floor, and he is also a very good passer, Bezold said. Smith is a very strong athlete, and we think he is going to help us rebound and score the tough points inside.
Its going to be interesting to see how the new players mesh with the returnees. Our experienced people need to play well while the new guys adjust.
One of those experienced players Bezold will look to is senior guard Steve Purdon, who averaged 10.7 ppg last season. Purdon made 68 three-point shots last season and also added 50 assists.
Senior point guards Sean Rowland and Jordan Stowers return to the backcourt, and Bezold said he expects that duo to provide leadership and play making. Rowland led NKU with 152 assists last season and is a solid floor general. Bezold noted that Stowers is in the best condition of his career and is also going to be a factor at the point.
We need Purdon, Rowland and Stowers to give us good minutes on the floor, and I think all three of them will provide us with solid play, Bezold said.
Sophomore Kevin Schappell (4.6 ppg) has a knack for getting big offensive rebounds in traffic, and Bezold said the 6-3 wing player could also be a key.
Pat Cary averaged 7.1 ppg and 6.0 rebounds last season, but the 6-9 senior center played his best basketball late in the year. During the final six games of 2003-04, Cary averaged 12 points and scored in double figures four times. He also had two double-doubles in his last six games of last season.
Pat did a nice job last year, and he is in very good condition, Bezold said. He gives us size in the post, and that's important because we arent very tall.
Freshman Travis Rasso, a 6-8 center from Boone County High School, will add depth inside.
Norse sophomore forward Kevin Reinhardt finished the 2003-04 season strong, averaging 13.2 ppg during the last five games. For the season, he averaged 8.8 ppg and 3.7 rebounds. Sophomore Brian Lewin (5.0 ppg) enjoyed a solid freshman season and was 24-for-73 from three-point range.
Reinhardt has improved his jump shot, and he is a key because he can play the three or the four, Bezold said. Lewin gives us a lot of versatility. He can play inside or go to the perimeter and hit the jumper.
NKU will face a rugged schedule that includes exhibition slates against Kentucky, Cincinnati and Ohio State. The regular-season opener is against Michigan Tech University, an NCAA Division II Tournament squad from last season, in the opening game of the John L. Griffin/Lions Club Classic.
Michigan Tech is ranked No. 6 nationally in Street and Smiths Division II poll.
I attended the NCAA Tournament up at Lewis last season and watched Michigan Tech, and they are an outstanding team with some great players, Bezold said. They have a couple of guys who are All-America candidates, and thats going to be a very difficult opener. But we also want to play the best teams in our region, and thats what we're doing playing Michigan Tech and Northern Michigan twice this season.
The Norse will begin GLVC play Nov. 26 at Kentucky Wesleyan College. NKUs first four conference games are on the road.
NKU will play its GLVC home opener Dec. 9 against Lewis.