Tahlequah Daily Press

Sports

November 1, 2011

NSU tips off season at OU

With nearly a complete roster turnover from last year to the present, there are plenty of questions marks surrounding the Northeastern State’s men’s basketball team.

In their exhibition opener at Oklahoma on Tuesday night, the RiverHawks will have only three players available who logged time last season. So, NSU coach Larry Gipson knows his club will be challenged in every facet against the Sooners, who went 14-18 last year.

“I think we’re going to get tested in all those areas,” Gipson said of rebounding, defending and the transition game. “It still remains to be seen if we’re proficient in any of those.

“Like any preseason, we’re like the little Dutch boy with the dike: when you think you’ve got one area figured out ... it tends to slip a little bit.”

Early on this season, the RiverHawks will lean heavily on a trio of returning players, including guards, Dee Willis (5-foot-11, 160 pounds) and Ethan Anderson (6-2, 195), and forward Justin Johnson (6-7, 230). Johnson was the leading scorer of the bunch last season, averaging 9.3 points in 27 minutes per game.

“Those three guys have done a good job of training our young guys,” Gipson said. “They’re very good at practice at explaining to the new players where they’re supposed to be on offense and defense.”

Combined, Willis and Anderson didn’t even average double digits in points last season.

That’s where a slew of newcomers will enter the fold. Expected to be in the starting five with Willis, Johnson and Anderson is forward Jon Miller (6-5, 205) and guard Landon DeMasters (6-4, 200).

“I’m anxious to see how they do (Tuesday) night under the bright lights,” Gipson said of his newcomers. “...And I think Jon is the most ready to of the new guys, probably.”

With Jermaine Bransford redshirting and Terance Reaves out until January, NSU’s reserves will consist of five newcomers: Jack Miller (6-foot guard), Kevin Arnold (6-3 guard), Zach Jones (6-6 forward), John Schneider (6-7, 238-pound forward) and Christian Mack (6-foot guard).

The only freshmen on the RiverHawks’ roster, Dakota Caudill and Alex Miller (both from Claremore), are expected to redshirt and sit out the 2011-2012 campaign.

“Right now, Alex Miller and Dakota Caudill are not going to play,” Gipson said. “We’re investigating the possibility of a redshirt with them.”

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