Oct. 17, 2008
Opening Practice Photo Gallery
EVANSTON, Ill. -
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Welcome to the inaugural edition of the Wildcat Insider, your source for the latest news and notes on the Northwestern men's basketball program. Throughout the season we'll give you a unique look at what's happening on and off the court with the team. Once we get into the season, we'll look back at recently played games while looking ahead to future opponents. We'll also keep you updated with promotions, appearances the team might be making and a variety of other items. We hope this will a sort of one-stop shopping item when it comes to Northwestern hoops.
We also want to hear from you, the fans. If you have a certain question you've always wondered about the team or a player in particular, this is your avenue to learn more about the 'Cats. While we can't promise to cover every single subject, we'll do our best to give you a behind-the-scenes look at the 2008-09 season.
There's a certain buzz about this year's team that has everyone excited for the upcoming season. With 11 letterwinners--including all five starters from a year ago--returning plus a talented group of five newcomers, no one can wait to get started. We're excited you've decided to join us for the ride.
And We're Off...
Friday, Oct. 17 marked the first official day of practice for college basketball teams across the country. While many programs choose to tip things off with a great deal of fanfare, the Wildcats simply rolled out the basketballs at 5 p.m. in the fieldhouse in McGaw Hall and got to work. No dunk contests. No cheerleaders. No choreographed dance parties.
Since it's Homecoming in Evanston this weekend, some former Wildcats stopped by practice to pay a visit. Among those in attendance were Walker Lambiotte ('90) and his son, Tonjua Jones ('08), Joe Branch ('98) and Shon Morris ('88), as well as Northwestern University President Henry S. Bienen, Director of Athletics Jim Phillips and former Wildcat football standout Barry Gardner.
For those who may not know, Friday's practice didn't actually mark the first time the players and coaches have gotten together to work out. For the past few weeks, the NCAA has afforded coaches the opportunity to have two hours of on-court time with student-athletes. For the most part, the team has chosen to get together for 40 minutes three times per week, usually in the morning. As some of you may have seen, this is why the University of Illinois was allowed to have their public practice in Memorial Stadium following the team's football game against Minnesota last Saturday.
In addition to their two hours per week with the coaches, the Wildcat players have all been getting together every afternoon to play. For the majority of the summer, virtually all of the players were around to play and develop chemistry. This includes the incoming freshman who were all taking summer school courses. So while Oct. 17 is the first official day of practice, the Wildcats have already been a team for quite some time now.
Glen Ellyn, Ill., native and Glenbard West High graduate John Shurna is a member of the five-member freshman class who took advantage of the summer to get acquainted with his future teammates.
"It's been great," he said. "My teammates are terrific. They've been helping me out a lot with everything. My teammates have made it a much easier adjustment. They were there for me during the summer too, so it's been a nice adjustment.
"We played almost every day in the summer. We were out there getting accustomed to one another and how everyone plays. It's fun playing with the guys.
As far as Friday's first day of practice, Shurna said he's anxious to get underway.
"It's exciting," he said. "It's finally starting. You've got a little bit of nerves going, but at the same time it's also very exciting."
On the other side of things, Craig Moore has been through all this three times before. Heading into his senior season, he said he fully intends on putting forth his best effort every day as he enters his final year in a Wildcat uniform.
"My mindset is to come in and cherish every day I have since it's my last year," said Moore. "I don't have that much time left so I just want to come in and work as hard as I can along with my teammates. I'm really looking forward to this season. I think we've got a good group of guys coming back. Basically everybody is returning with the exception of Jason Okrzesik who graduated. We've got a great recruiting class and we're really excited to show everyone what we can do."
Moore said that he feels that the great deal of time that everyone spent together during the summer will help speed up the learning curve and helped all the individuals come together as a team.
"We got to know the freshmen really well," he said. "We got know their strengths and weaknesses on and off the court. We got to know them as people and become really close with them as friends. We got to teach them the offense and how Northwestern plays. They were able to figure out the ins and outs of the offense so that Coach Carmody doesn't need to spend as much time teaching since it takes a while, especially with our type of offense.
As far as the newcomers' progress, Moore likes what he has seen from the quintet so far.
"They've done really well; they've picked it up. It's tough because there's so many new guys, but I think they've done a great job and I'm looking forward to seeing what they do in practice."
Be sure to visit NUsports.com on Saturday for a video package from Friday's opening practice, including interviews with Kevin Coble, Craig Moore and Head Coach Bill Carmody.
Did You Know?
Northwestern and Purdue are the only two Big Ten teams to return three players who averaged double-figure scoring a year ago.
Northwestern's 11 returning letterwinners this season are the second-most in the Big Ten. Only Wisconsin (12) welcomes back more.
The Wildcats return 84.5 percent of their scoring and 88.3 percent of their rebounding from last season.
Here are some recent links to stories that relate to Northwestern men's basketball:
Come out and meet the Wildcats Saturday, Oct. 18 as they'll be in Wildcat Alley prior to the football team's Homecoming game against Purdue. Following an early-morning practice, the team will be in Wildcat Alley from approximately 10-11 a.m. so come out and chat with them, get pictures and autographs and wish them luck.
On Monday, Oct. 20, Head Coach Bill Carmody is meeting the media to preview the upcoming season. Head Football Coach Pat Fitzgerald has his weekly Monday news conference beginning at noon, followed by selected NU football players. This week, the players will be followed Head Women's Basketball Coach Joe McKeown and then Coach Carmody at approximately 1 p.m. The news conference will be video streamed at NUsports.com and a transcript of Coach Carmody's comments will be posted on the site later that afternoon.
If you haven't signed up yet, there is still time to join the Wildcats for the Fast Break Club's annual Tip-Off Dinner Thursday, Oct. 23. This year's event is being held at Harry Caray's Italian Steakhouse in downtown Chicago. It's sure to be a great time and one of your first chances to meet some of the members of this year's team. Visit the following link for more information:
Big Ten Basketball Media Day at the Chicago Marriott O'Hare - Sunday, Oct. 26
Exhibition game vs. Robert Morris (Ill.) College - Thursday, Nov. 6; 7 p.m.; Welsh-Ryan Arena
Regular season opener vs. Central Arkansas - Sunday, Nov. 16; 1 p.m.; Welsh-Ryan Arena
Until next time...