By JOHN SAHLY - jsahly@shawmedia.com

NIU finds 'floor general'

Detroit guard Travon Baker signed a national letter of intent to play for the Northern Illinois men’s basketball team, NIU coach Mark Montgomery announced Thursday.

Baker, a 5-foot-11 point guard, averaged 16 points, 13 assists, six rebounds and five steals in his final season at Consortium and earned Class C All-State First-Team honors from The Associated Press, Detroit Free Press and Detroit News.

“He’s a floor general,” Montgomery told the Daily Chronicle on Thursday. “He’s one of those pass-first point guards, loves to play defense. He can pick a guy up full court. He’s going to push the ball hard in transition. He’s a guy that can create other shots for other guys, and I think that’s one of the biggest things we were missing this year from that position.

“He’s going to be able to come in from Day One and give us minutes at that position.”

Daveon Balls, Darrell Bowie, Mike Davis and Sam Mader. Balls and Baker will be expected to compete for the point guard spot along with returner Marquavese Ford.

“I’m asking a lot from the freshmen from that position,” Montgomery said. “but he’ll have more experienced guys around him, so that will probably make the transition a little easier.”

Baker’s scholarship leaves one spot left for the Huskies, which was created when freshman point guard Zach Miller asked to transfer from NIU.

Miller, a 5-foot-8 guard originally recruited by former NIU coach Ricardo Patton, started six games and played in 19 as a freshman. He had 37 assists, 29 turnovers and averaged 2.5 points a game.

An irate Scott Miller, Zach’s father and coach at Glenbard East High School, contacted the Daily Chronicle April 4 to give what he said was his version of Zach’s departure.

Scott accused Montgomery of yanking Zach’s scholarship in a one-on-one meeting days after Montgomery told the NIU basketball team that Zach was his favorite player on the team. Scott said Montgomery’s reputation in his portion of the Chicago suburbs would be ruined for cutting Zach and the NIU coach would not be welcome recruiting at Glenbard East, a high school in Lombard, about 25 miles west of Chicago.

He also said Montgomery told him that he doesn’t need to recruit the state of Illinois.

No one in Montgomery’s second recruiting class – with one scholarship left to give – is from Illinois, but four of Montgomery’s first five recruits were from the Chicago area and Montgomery has consistently said from the time he was hired in March of last year that Chicago and Illinois are critical recruiting areas to NIU’s success. In his introductory news conference, Montgomery named several Chicago area AAU coaches and high schools he was familiar with from his days as an assistant coach at Michigan State.

Scott said Thursday he stood by everything he said last week.

“Our relationship is done,” Scott said. “His reputation is gone, in my view.”

Montgomery said he wanted what was best for Zach, who is still on scholarship at NIU and will transfer to Hillsdale College, a Division-II school. Montgomery said he regretted the “verbal punches” between him and Scott during the process.

“I’m just going to stick to the high road,” Montgomery told the Daily Chronicle. “I only wish Zach the best.”

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