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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    All the fresh faces

    Two-thirds of the NAU men’s basketball team are sporting a Lumberjacks jersey for the first time this season.

    The team has brought in its largest incoming class ever with 10 freshmen, junior-college transfers, Division-I transfers and walk-ons.

    “”It’s extremely challenging in that every day is a learning day,”” said NAU head coach Mike Adras, who has led his team to two consecutive Big Sky Conference regular-season titles. “”It’s not like a year ago, where there was so much carry over because you had such an experienced team. One day, we look decent, and the next day, we look like we’ve never done anything before.””

    The Lumberjacks come into Tucson in a situation similar to No. 17 Arizona, in that each team is projected to start three returners and two newcomers. The Wildcats’ new players are two freshmen, while NAU’s are transfers.

    After losing nine players from last season – including Stephen Sir, who led the nation in 3s made per game, and Ruben Boykin, Jr., who ranked among the national leaders in double-doubles – Adras will rely heavily on three key returners to take over scoring duties.

    Senior forwards Kyle Landry and Ryan McCurdy averaged 10.1 and 8.0 points per game, respectively, last season. They also hit the boards with intensity, combining to average 11.5 per game.

    But it is Landry’s roommate and McCurdy’s neighbor, junior Josh Wilson, who is expected to step up his offensive game the most from last season.

    Averaging 8.2 points per game, the point guard dished out 181 assists and had 31 steals. He ranked first in the Big Sky in assists in each of the last two seasons.

    “”I’m sure I’ll be more of a scoring threat than I have been,”” said Wilson, who had a game-high 20 points in Sunday’s season-opening win over Adams State. “”It wasn’t really necessary for me to score before, having other guys that could score so well. My job was always to distribute the ball to them. But I think I’ll shoot a little more this year.””

    The Lumberjacks, who were picked to

    finish fourth in the Big Sky preseason

    coaches poll, will also utilize the skills of 6-foot-6 forward Zarko Comagic, a Serbia native who dominated at Central Arizona College with 20.3 points per game and 9.1 rebounds.

    “”I hope to be pleasantly surprised by several of our newcomers, but that remains to be seen because we haven’t done much yet,”” Adras said. “”It’s a little cliché, but we’re definitely a work in progress.””

    NAU, which finished fourth in the nation in scoring with 83 points per game last season, comes into McKale Center to face a team that allowed 61.5 in two exhibition games utilizing O’Neill’s hyped-up man-to-man defense.

    “”I’m not thinking we’re going to score 83 points a game this year,”” Adras said. “”I don’t see us being as explosive this year. We’re going to have to play games with a much lower scoring output.””

    And 1

    Though UA interim head coach Kevin O’Neill said head coach Lute Olson “”should return shortly”” from his indefinite leave of absence, Adras said that Olson will be missed in tonight’s matchup.

    “”I consider Lute a very close friend,”” Adras said. “”He has, on numerous occasions, helped Mike Adras out. I hope he’s there come game time. And if he’s not, before we step out on the court for the game, I’m going to be in the locker room by myself and I’m going to say a prayer for Lute and his family.””

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