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The North Wind is an independent student publication serving the Northern Michigan University community. It is partially funded by the Student Activity Fee. The North Wind digital paper is published daily during the fall and winter semesters except on university holidays and during exam weeks. The North Wind Board of Directors is composed of representatives of the student body, faculty, administration and area media.

Opinion-- A list of regrets before I graduate
Opinion-- A list of regrets before I graduate
Sal Wiertella March 1, 2024

Traversing success through disappointment

Traversing+success+through+disappointment

The Northern Michigan University Men’s Basketball team looks ahead to their offseason after a gut-wrenching first-round playoff game against Ashland University. The Wildcats saw their season slip away in the second half of the game after blowing a 22-point lead.

It’s true that many Wildcat basketball fans are hanging their heads after this loss, but it’s important to stay optimistic on the future of this team, head coach Bill Sall said.

“Progress is a good thing to start with,” Sall said. “If you look at the body of work in the season—first winning season in 10 years, first GLIAC tournament appearance in 11 years— I think you saw a better team,
I think you saw a more mature team. We were able to get two guys on the all-conference team. There’s a ton of positives.”

Junior guard Naba Echols and junior forward/guard Isaiah Johnson are the first Wildcat players since 2008 to earn First-Team All-GLIAC honors. The pair tied for the team’s lead in scoring, as they both averaged 17.5 points per game. Echols averaged double figures in all but four games and hit 20 points 12 times while leading the team in assists. Johnson led the team with 5.5 rebounds per outing and tied for the team’s lead in three-point shooting. Johnson was also the only member of the team to start in every game.

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Despite the positives of this season, Sall believes that his team had the potential to progress further in the tournament.

“There’s a gnawing thought, that I don’t think we finished like how we were capable of finishing. There’s this game, where we probably didn’t get any sleep for that next week. But it’s a constant reminder when you give up a 22-point lead and lose in OT on the road to Ashland in the first round of the GLIAC tournament,” Sall said.

The Wildcats were feeling good about their chances of advancing during their Feb. 28 playoff matchup against Ashland. Up 17 points at halftime and leading by as many as 22 in the second half, the Wildcats were stifled by an enormous Ashland comeback. With a chance to win the game, an NMU shot missed its mark and the game shifted to overtime. Ashland continued their push, putting in 18 points to Northern’s seven in the overtime session to walk away with an 83-72 victory.

The Wildcats were picked in the preseason to finish near the very bottom of the conference. History tends to support that pick, with NMU unable to finish a season above a .500 record in 10 years. In a conference with perennially tough opponents such as Lake Superior State University, Wayne State, and Ferris State, coming out and finishing in fourth place is exactly the sort of motivation Sall will use to boost this team into next season.

“The body of work is good, I like where the program is headed,” Sall said. “ I think we have a nucleus of players that can really help us get where we want to go.”

Looking ahead to next season, the Wildcats are bringing in two recruits to help mend the scoring absence of departing senior Jordan Perez. Ishpeming Hematite senior Hart Holmgren will add a dynamic scoring touch and has been recognized as the pulse of his high school program. Holmgren lead his team in scoring and rebounding, averaging 20 points and 10 rebounds a game. He was named to the ABC UP First Team as a junior last year.

“I am very excited to announce the signing of Hart Holmgren,” Sall said. “It has been exciting to see his development over the course of the last several years. Hart is a NMU basketball camp alum that continued to work on his craft and become a very good player. He has amazing athleticism and his jump shot has really become a consistent part of his game. Hart is always in the gym and that work ethic will help him translate his skill level to the college game. He is going to surprise a few people this year with how much he has improved.”

Also coming in for NMU is 6-foot-9-inch center Ben Wolf, from Naperville, Illinois. Wolf is a soft-scoring big man, who has earned numerous awards for his team, including MVP honors at the Chuck Dayton Holiday Classic earlier this season.

“Finding players that have the skill and desire to play with their back to the basket is very hard to find in today’s game,” Sall said. “As we watched Ben’s progression over the summer he became our number one recruiting target, and thankfully he accepted our scholarship offer on his campus visit. Looking for Ben to have an impact in our system right away.”

In what will be an exciting transition for NMU basketball, Sall is making sure to catch up with the latest Hollywood Marvel block-busters.
“Black Panther was unbelievable. We saw it two days in a row. I love Marvel, my kids love it. Every time one comes out we think, ‘wow how can that get better?’ Then they do and we go, ‘wow.’ Next up is Infinity War, I couldn’t be more excited for that.”

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