Northern Illinois will have a lot of new faces this season, and they’ll be expected to contribute to a team that won only five games in 2011-12.
Here’s a rundown of each of the seven players from NIU’s most recent recruiting class:
Travon Baker, 5-10, Guard
Baker, like freshman teammate Daveon Balls, is a pass-first point guard, quick and a good defender. Both freshmen should see time at the point.
As a senior at Detroit Consortium High, Baker averaged 16 points, 13 assists, six rebounds and five steals a game.
Daveon Balls, 6-0, Guard
The Indianapolis native will split time with Baker at point guard. As to who is the starter, NIU coach Mark Montgomery said it’s basically a coin flip at this point.
Balls – who attended Lawrence North High in Indianapolis, the same school that produced Greg Oden and Grizzlies guard Mike Conley Jr. – averaged nine points, six rebounds and six assists a game his senior season.
Darrell Bowie, 6-6, Wing
Bowie might be listed as a wing, but Montgomery said he could play the power forward spot, as well. He spent last year at La Jolla Prep out in California, but missed the basketball season because of injury. He averaged 13 points and 8.5 rebounds as a junior at Wauwatosa East High in the Milwaukee area.
“Darrell is a versatile, hybrid forward, where he can play the 3 and 4 position,” Montgomery said. “Has a great feel for the game.”
J.J. Cravatta, 6-1, Guard
Area prep basketball fans who follow the Northern Illinois Big 12 know Cravatta well. Last season, he averaged 26.9 points a game for Streator and earned NI Big 12 West Player of the Year honors. Cravatta helped Streator to its first regional title since 1969.
Mike Davis, 6-2, Guard
The Cleveland-area product averaged 19.3 points a game for Garfield Heights High a season ago, and will play at the shooting guard spot. Montgomery had some high praise for his athleticism.
“Probably our most athletic freshman coming in is Mike Davis, a kid out of Cleveland,” Montgomery said. “Jump out of the gym, get to the basket, good defender.”
Sam Mader, 6-9, Forward
In a class full of guards, Mader is the lone freshman who will work primarily as a post player. The Appleton, Wis., native averaged 13 points and 7.2 rebounds his senior year of high school.
Montgomery said Mader not only will be able to rebound, but can move away from the basket and hit a jump shot, as well.
“He’s our low-post threat; he’s our banker,” Montgomery said. “He’ll definitely be a good rebounder, but also has good touch, for a 6-9 kid, where he can step out from 12 to 15 feet and make shots.”
Akeem Springs, 6-3, Guard
The second in-state member of this recruiting class, Springs can be a threat from the outside. He averaged 16.7 points and 8.4 rebounds a game at Waukegan last season.
“I think he’s going to follow in (NIU junior) Antone Christian’s footsteps where he’s a vocal guy,” Montgomery said. “He definitely reminds me every day, how many days until the first game. Very good three-point shooter.”