Saturday, November 10, 2001

UC-NKU creating an unusual buzz


It isn't just any old exhibition game

By Michael Perry
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Mike Kelsey has watched a few University of Cincinnati games over the years. And he was always rooting against the Bearcats.

        You see, the redshirt freshman guard for Northern Kentucky University is the brother of Pat Kelsey, who played at Xavier. Their father also played for the Musketeers.

        Now, in the first game of his college career, Kelsey will take the floor against the Bearcats on their home court. Today's tipoff is 1:05p.m. at Shoemaker Center.

        “The last two to three weeks, just thinking about it, my motor's been running (and) I've had butterflies in my stomach,” said the Elder High School product, whose sister Katie is NKU's all-time women's assist leader. “I've always wanted to be out there playing against them, playing at that level. I never really thought it would happen, and it's going to happen.”

        It's unusual for a preseason game to generate the kind of local interest this game has.

        For NKU, a Division II team just across the Ohio River that is ranked No.25 in the preseason, today is a chance to compete against a Division I program that has been to 10 consecutive NCAA Tournaments.

        For the Bearcats, it is a chance to test themselves against an organized, well-coached team that will take advantage of sloppy play and mental mistakes.

        NKU coach Ken Shields is trying to get his team ready for its regular-season opener, which is six days away, against Ferris State at home.

        Ditto for UC coach Bob Huggins, whose team also opens Friday, at 18th-ranked Oklahoma State.

        “We finally get a chance to play the big boys,” said NKU senior Craig Sanders, a McNicholas High School graduate. “We're taking the approach of wanting to keep the game respectable and close and maybe have a chance to win it at the end.

        “We play with them throughout the summer (at Oak Hills), and our guys should have enough confidence that we could play with them. We respect them. If they don't respect us, they will after the game.”

        UC is expected to start five veterans: guards Steve Logan and Leonard Stokes, forwards Immanuel McElroy and Jamaal Davis, and center Donald Little. Freshman Jason Maxiell will be the first big man off the bench.

        Other than that, Huggins said he wasn't sure of the rotation. Like any exhibition game, he hopes to try different combinations and see how the first-year players perform.

        “I keep hearing from a couple of these guys how they're going to turn it up when the games start,” Huggins said. “So I'm kind of waiting to see if they can turn it up.”

        Little was at the NKU dorms Thursday night, hanging out with some of the Norse players, including Chris Seabrooks, a transfer from Pittsburgh who is sitting out this season. Little said Seabrooks is his best friend. They grew up together in Augusta, Ga., and both attended The Winchedon School in Massachusetts.

        “There was a lot of trash talking,” Little said, smiling. “We had fun, though. I don't think they're scared. It's a big challenge for them. It isn't going to be easy (for us). It's like Xavier. They've got nothing to lose; they're going to go all out.”

       



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