By Ryan Divish/Havre Daily News Sports Editoremail@example.com
In the grand scheme of things, Saturday's game between the Montana State University-Northern men's basketball team and the Montana All-Stars ranks up there in importance with a scrimmage or an alumni game.
Because the game is an exhibition, it will not count on Northern's record and really has no ramifications with a loss, or any benefits with a win.
"In the end, if we are out ahead that's great," said head coach Shawn Huse. "If not, it's not the end of the world. We're still playing to win, but we also need to work on some things in this game."
Tell that to his players.
Huse readily admits that his players with their extremely competitive nature probably won't agree with his philosophy.
"That's what we love about our players is that they are so competitive," Huse said. "They're going to go out, compete hard and play to win. But they have to keep sight of our long-range goals. A win in an exhibition won't help us at the end of the season, but working on the things we've been practicing will."
Indeed, it is still very early in the season and Huse still has plenty of things his team needs to learn and polish up before the conference season rolls around.
"This is good for us because we're playing a quality opponent ," Huse said. "We're still trying to get a look at most of our players to see where they fit and where they're at.
"We need to work on some things in this game. We're tweaking the offense some and we need to work in a game setting. We're putting in a lot of new things and this is where we can work on it."
Because Huse and his team have been learning an abundance of new things in the past few weeks, he does expect some mistakes Saturday night.
"Any time there's that much learning involved, there are going to be mistakes," Huse said. "The biggest thing is how quickly we can learn from those mistakes and not make them again."
Coming off a pair of relatively easy wins over the University of Lethbridge and Red Deer College, Huse is expecting a little tougher test from the All-Stars, whose roster sports several familiar names to Montana basketball fans.
The team features a trio of former Montana State University players in Bo Segeberg, Aaron Rich and Jeff Riggs.
Segeberg, a 6-9 power forward/center, averaged 12 points and five rebounds in two seasons for the Cats. Rich was a three-year starter for MSU, earning second-team all-conference honors in his junior and senior years. A versatile player, Rich led the Cats in scoring, rebounding and steals in 2002 when MSU won the Big Sky conference title.
Riggs, a transfer from Oregon State, also earned second-team Big Sky honors in his junior and senior years for MSU. The 5-10 guard is a deadly three-point shooter and plays with reckless abandon.
The team also features the guard tandem of Shane Gamradt and Kirk Stiles, who led Carroll College to a back-to-back NAIA national tournament appearances.
A two-time honorable mention All-American, Gamradt is the all-time assist leader at Carroll and in Montana High School history. Stiles was a prodigious scorer for the Saints while earning first-team all-conference honors in his junior and senior years. In his senior year, he was named Frontier Conference MVP and also picked up honorable mention All-American honors.
Also on the roster, is Shane's brother Dennen Gamradt, who averaged 20 points, eight rebounds and six assists during his senior year in high school while leading Fairfield to a Class B state title.
Rounding out the team are a pair of solid scorers in Jeff Bellach and Carson Cunningham.
Bellach, a four-year starter at Montana Tech, is the school's second leading all-time scorer and was an all-conference performer all four years. Huse is very familiar with Bellach, as he was an assistant coach at Tech while Bellach was playing.
Cunningham started 75 games in three seasons with the Purdue Boilermakers. While at Purdue, he led the team in assists in his junior and senior seasons.
"They should be more physical than the teams we played last weekend," Huse said. "They have plenty of talent and I expect them to put plenty of points on the scoreboard."
Games against all-star teams can be a little deceiving, because the players aren't usually in top game shape and used to playing with each other. Still, Huse is plenty wary about this squad.
"What they will lack in conditioning, they more than make up for in experience, ability and athletic talent," Huse said. "All of those guys played in big games at very high levels."
The Lights will still try to wear them down physically playing their same uptempo style.
"We'll probably put some pressure on them and try and get some fast break points," Huse said. "We're looking to doing what we do best."
Contrary to what is printed on the season tickets, the game will tip off at 8 p.m. on Saturday.