As a team, the Montana State University-Northern Lights were certainly elated when they found out they had received an at-large berth in the 2013 NAIA national tournament last Wednesday night.
But collectively, the Lights w
The Montana State University-Northern men's basketball team poses for a photo shortly after arriving in Kansas City Sunday night. The Lights have three days to prepare for the opening round of the NAIA national tournament, which gets underway Wednesday.
ere more just excited knowing senior Devin Jackson will play on the big stage one last time. Jackson is a four-year Light, a three-year starter and a three-year Frontier All-Conference performer. He's been to back-to-back national tournaments, and has been a part of one of the most successful stretches in Northern men's history.
And he's the only senior on a new and relatively young MSU-N roster.
"Devin is our leader, he's a great leader and a great player," Northern junior Alan Brown said. "We would have all felt pretty terrible if we hadn't made it to Kansas City in his senior year. It would have been terrible. So it's a great feeling knowing he's leading us at the national tournament in his senior year."
And all of the new Lights have that same feeling. They're excited for Jackson and for themselves, they have plenty to prove and they want to show the rest of the NAIA what Northern basketball is all about.
"This feels really good to be a part of this," Former Havre Blue Pony Anfernee Standing Rock said. "I'm really excited. All of our hard work is paying off.
"I'm excited," added junior forward Will Perry. "I've listened to what a lot of last year's seniors had to say about the experience and that's going to help us prepare. We have great leaders in Devin and Corbin (Pearson) and coaches LV (LaVon Myers) and (Jordan) Harris were just there last year. So I think we're going to be really prepared."
Being prepared is one thing, but the Lights also feel like they have plenty to prove, and some unfinished business as well. In their last three trips to the national tournament, the Lights have yet to get out of the first round.
"We want to take this further," sophomore Pat Jensen said. "Last year was tough because it was such a big buildup. We win the championship and we were so excited going in, and it was really tough to lose that first game. So we want to change that this time around.
"I definitely feel like we have unfinished business," Jackson added. "To get there a few times and have no success, it's tough. Everyone on this team is 110 percent focused on that first game and that's all. We just have to go down there and play our game. Play Northern basketball. We know we can be a really good team when we play well, and we just have to go out there and do that in Kansas City."
And while the Lights certainly want to beat Evangel on Wednesday night, several of Northern's newcomers are already and justifiably proud of what this team has achieved in 2012-13.
"We knew coming in, as a new group, we had some big shoes to fill here. The seniors from last year's team had a lot of success," said junior Alfie Miller. "And we knew right away we had to come in and earn the respect of the fans and the program. And it's been fun. It's been fun coming together as a team. I think we've done a good job of distinguishing ourselves this season.
"It feels good to be adding to the Northern tradition," Brown added. "To be a new team and still make it to the national tournament, that's something we can all take pride in. We were disappointed with the way we ended the season, but we feel like we deserve to be there with all of the other top teams in the country. And we feel like we're going in there with something to prove."