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    Men's Basketball Gears Up for Maine

    NUSPORTSDOTCOM
    NUSPORTSDOTCOM

    NUSPORTSDOTCOM

    November 16, 1998

    Northwestern Wildcats (0-0)
    vs. Maine Black Bears (1-0)
    Tue., Nov. 17, 1998 -- 7 p.m. CST
    Radio: WGN AM 720

    The Northwestern Wildcats open the 1998-99 regular season on Tuesday night against Maine. NU won its two exhibition contests, defeating the California All-Stars and Ural Great Russia. Northwestern plays its first six and nine of the first 10 regular season games at home.

    Northwestern-Maine: The Series This is the first time that Northwestern and Maine have ever played each other in men's basketball.

    Wildcat Probable Starters

                                                                
    Pos. No. Name                 (height, weight, class, hometown)  ppg    rpg
    F    #33 Tavaras Hardy            (6-8, 210, Fr., Joliet, Ill.)  ---    ---
    F    #14 Steve Lepore     (6-5, 200, Fr., North Olmstead, Ohio)  ---    ---
    C    #42 Evan Eschmeyer (6-11, 255, Sr.-6, New Knoxville, Ohio)  21.7  10.7
    G    #22 Sean Wink                (6-2, 176, So., Brea, Calif.)  12.1   2.4
    G    #24 David Newman        (5-11, 165, Fr., Des Moines, Iowa)  ---    ---
    

    Off the bench

    G     #4 Julian Bonner          (6-1, 198, Sr., Detroit, Mich.)   9.0   2.8
    F     #5 Joe Harmsen         (6-9, 248, Sr., Fond du Lac, Wis.)   3.9   3.1
    G    #10 Matt Kammrath        (6-0, 185, Jr., Boca Raton, Fla.)   0.0   0.1
    F    #11 Danny Allouche           (6-5, 200, Sr., Omer, Israel)   ---   ---
    G    #31 Nate Pomeday        (6-2, 201, Sr., Cedar Grove, Wis.)   3.5   1.2
    G    #32 Collier Drayton           (6-1, 175, Fr., Lyons, N.Y.)   ---   ---
    C    #35 Aron Molnar     (6-11, 242, Jr., Mississauga, Ontario)   4.5   2.7
    G    #44 Jeff Eschmeyer    (6-2, 192, So., New Knoxville, Ohio)   0.3   1.2
    

    Exhibition Recap
    There were several bright spots in NU's two exhibition victories. Evan Eschmeyer averaged 26.5 points and 14.0 rebounds in the two games. Freshman point guard David Newman played 71 out of a possible 80 minutes in the two contests, averaging 19.0 points, 5.5 assists and 3.5 rebounds. Another freshman, forward Tavaras Hardy, averaged 15.5 points and 7.5 boards per game.

    For the exhibition games, NU shot 51 percent (56-for-111) from the field while hitting 50 percent (19-for-38) from three-point range. The 'Cats held their opponents to just 37 percent (48-for-130) from the floor and held the rebounding edge by an average of 15 boards per game (45.5-30.5).

    Head Coach Kevin O'Neill
    Kevin O'Neill (McGill, 1979) is in his second season at the helm of the Wildcat basketball program. This is his 11th season as head coach at the Division I level and 13th overall as a collegiate head coach. He also has served as head coach at North Country CC (1980-82), Marycrest (1982-83), Marquette (1989-94) and Tennessee (1994-97).

    O'Neill owns a 10-17 record at NU and 150-137 record as a Division I head coach. Known as one of the best recruiters in the nation, O'Neill resurrected the Marquette and Tennessee programs, taking two teams which had not enjoyed recent success to postseason play.

    Eschmeyer -- "Power in the Post"
    Wildcat center and National Player of the Year candidate Evan Eschmeyer returns to Evanston for a sixth year of eligibility. He sat out his first two seasons with a foot injury. Last season, Eschmeyer established himself as one of the best big men in the NCAA, ranking in the top 15 nationally in rebounding (11th, 10.7 rpg), scoring (13th, 21.7 ppg) and field goal percentage (13th, .610). The only other person to accomplish that feat was Pacific's Michael Olowokandi, who was the top pick in last spring's NBA draft.

    "Esch" averaged 26.5 points and 14.0 rebounds during this year's two exhibition contests. However, he averaged just 32.5 minutes per game, as compared to the 37.6 minutes per game Eschmeyer played last season.

    Eschmeyer Preseason Honors
    The following are some of the preseason honors gained by Wildcat center Evan Eschmeyer:

        *  Top candidate for the Wooden Award
        *  Top candidate for the Naismith Award 
        *  Preseason All-American, CNN/SI
        *  Preseason All-American, Street and Smith's
        *  Preseason All-American, Athlon
        *  Preseason All-American, Basketball News
        *  Preseason All-American, Playboy
        *  Preseason All-American, Blue Ribbon College Yearbook
        *  Named the second-best center in the country by 
            Street & Smith's, The Sporting News and CNN/SI
        *  "The most underrated big man in the college ranks" by 
            Preview Sports Publications (PSP)
        *  Best rebounder in the Big Ten, The Sporting News
        * "All-Windex Team" (best rebounders in the country),
            Dick Vitale's College Basketball
    

    Top Frosh
    In the first two exhibition games, head coach Kevin O'Neill used three freshmen in the starting lineup: point guard David Newman and forwards Steve Lepore and Tavaras Hardy. The trio combined for a stellar 40.0 points, 15.0 rebounds and 11.0 assists per game.

    Also during the exhibition season, these three freshmen combined to shoot 27-for-45 (.600) from the field, 12-for-19 (.632) from three-point range and 14-for-19 (.737) from the free throw line.

    Home Court Advantage
    In Kevin O'Neill's first season as head coach, the Wildcats made Welsh-Ryan Arena a tough place to play. The 'Cats went 10-6 at home, the first time in a decade that NU had won 10 games in their own arena. That mark included a seven-game home winning streak.

    Three other home contests could have easily gone the Wildcats' way. NU dropped the season-opener at home to Siena, 86-84, and lost in overtime to both Big Ten champion Michigan State and NIT runner-up Penn State.

    Nationalism
    Freshman guard Steve Lepore spent part of this past summer representing the United States at the Junior World Championship qualifying tournament in the Dominican Republic. He started all six games during the tournament, leading the USA to a perfect 6-0 record and the gold medal.

    Lepore paced the team in three-point shooting, hitting 13-of-29 (.448) from beyond the arc, and was tied for the team lead with 11 steals. Lepore finished third on the team in scoring, averaging 12.8 points (in only 21 minutes) per game.

    A Wink and a Nod
    Sophomore guard Sean Wink broke the NU single-season three-point record last year, hitting 86 shots from beyond the arc. His 3.2 threes per game and .457 three-point percentage last year ranked second among all NCAA freshmen. Overall, he led the Big Ten and ranked 18th nationally in threes per game and was 20th nationally in three-point percentage.

    The Brothers Esch
    For the second-straight season, the Wildcats will have two Eschmeyers on the team (Evan and Jeff). Last year was the first time that the duo was able to play together on the same team due to the fact they are four years apart in age. In fact, Jeff's first collegiate field goal (last year vs. Minnesota) came on an assist from Evan.

    Letter-of-Intent Signees
    During the November early signing period, the Wildcats signed five players to National Letters of Intent to begin playing basketball at NU next season:

    Winston Blake (F, 6-5, 180, Plano, Texas/Plano Senior)
    Brody Deren (F, 6-7, 223, Harlan, Iowa/Harlan Comm.)
    Aaron Jennings (C, 6-11, 200, Atkins, Iowa/Benton Comm.)
    Ben Johnson (G, 6-3, 180, Minneapolis, Minn./De La Salle)
    Adam Robinson (F, 6-10, 210, Cedar Falls, Iowa/Cedar Falls)

    Johnson (No. 60) and Blake (No. 95) are each ranked among the top 100 players in the country by Bob Gibbons. Deren was "Southwest Iowa Player of the Year" as a junior, while Jennings and Robinson were both named All-Americans this season by various publications.

    Wildcats on the Air
    Once again this season, WGN-AM 720 will be the radio home of Wildcat basketball. Dave Eanet handles the play-by-play chores while Joey Meyer will handle the color analysis. Every Wildcat game this season will be aired by WGN.