By Ryan Divish
This time it's for real. After an exhibition game against the alumni and a scrimmage against Dawson Community College, the Montana State University-Northern men's basketball team will open its 2002-2003 regular season tonight as they take on the Medicine Hat College Rattlers in the first of two game over the weekend.
While first year Lights head coach Shawn Huse knows a little about the Rattlers, his main concern is with his team.
"They're chompin at the bit right now," Huse said. "With conditioning and then practice, they've been going for a long time. All that hard work and effort early in the season has them really hungry to play."
A new era begins in the men's program under Huse and this year's team features plenty of new faces. The Lights return only five players from last year's team, but none of those five saw significant playing time.
However, they will all be counted on to play roles this season. Perhaps the biggest role will fall on the shoulders of senior Charlie Ereaux.
"I really expect to Charlie to start stepping it up," Huse said. "I don't think he's transferred what he did in pick-up ball and in practice to games. He's just starting to believe he can play. It takes time for a player to realize how good they are."
Ereaux will start at the power forward position. At 6-foot-5, he possesses a soft touch and can face up to the basket.
Ereaux will be joined in the front court by returner Kent Douglas at center and newcomer Travis Moran at small forward. Also 6-5, Douglas will have his work cut out for him both on defense and rebounding. Huse also expects Moran to contribute on the boards as well.
"We are definitely not the biggest team in the conference," Huse said. "That's going to be something we have to overcome."
The Lights will look to overcome it by turning the game into a full-court game. Northern is going to harass and harangue opponents with full-court pressure. They will be picking up teams defensively as soon as they step off the bus.
"We're going to be play the teams full-court for 40 minutes," Huse said. "We'll press after made baskets and try and get the score up in the 80's and 90's."
The pressure isn't designed to cause a ton of turnovers, although they are always nice. Rather, the pressure is there to wear down opposing teams physically and mentally.
"We just want to be there all night from the opening tip," Huse said. "We want to let teams know that isn't going to be easy now and isn't going to be easy 39 minutes from now."
Huse believes in playing to his teams strength and the full-court game plays into his teams biggest strength, its guards.
The brother Morinia bring limitless athleticism and creativity on both ends of the court. Both Larry and Lamar were scheduled to start Friday night.
However, problems with Lamar's transfer from Lamar Community College have arose and the possibility of Lamar Morinia being ineligible for the first semester is very likely.
"He stayed at his junior college an extra year," Huse said. "He got his associates degree there in the fall, but went to school for an extra semester after that and is being penalized for it. There is no such penalty for that in the NCAA, just in the NAIA."
If Lamar Morinia can't go, freshman Zach MacLean will step into the point guard position.
"Zach is a very good shooter and solid fundamentally," Huse said. "He isn't as athletic or strong as Lamar or can cause as much havoc defensively, but he is more than capable of running the team."
Regardless of who's on the floor, Huse expects that his team continues to play scrappy and hustle at all times, with its lack of size it can't afford not to.
"I told the guys that I can't fault them for their effort or hustle," Huse said. "I expect them to continue that this weekend. It is time to start focusing on wins and losses."
Northern and Medicine Hat will tip off tonight at 7 p.m. at the MSU-Northern gymnasium and can be heard on 92.5 FM-KPQX.