Basketball star gearing up for new season

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Nate Bellville

A member of the Northern Michigan University Men’s Basketball team was announced this past week as GLIAC Preseason Player of the Year.

Senior starting point guard Naba Echols is poised to have a big season after earning those honors. As team captain of the squad, he’s pushing to be a core member for the team.

“I’m expecting to be a good leader,” Echols said. “We’ve got a lot of veterans this year which is way different than the past, but we’ve got a good mix of guys so I can try to lead the team in the right direction.”

Echols is humbled when being mentioned in the conversation, but he acknowledges the team and coaching staff for the award.

“Even though it’s only preseason and it doesn’t really mean anything, I’m grateful,” Echols said. “I know it’s an individual award but I truly owe it to all my teammates and coaching staff, I wouldn’t be in that position now if it wasn’t for them.”

Even with a balanced roster, he also said he tells the underclassmen and incoming recruits looking to take over his position when he graduates, to work hard and play better in the sport.

“The biggest thing I tell them all the time is hard work pays off,” Echols said. “When you work on your craft and on the things you need to do, it’ll pay off at the very end.”

Majoring in communications/marketing, the Memphis, Tennessee native comes into this season with fellow senior, guard/forward Isiah Johnson, being named into the all-GLIAC First Team. Last season, Echols tied with Johnson averaging a team-high 17.5 points per game and led the team in assists and minutes played last year.

One of his stand-out highlight-reel plays came last February at home when he made ESPN’s Sportscenter Top Ten Plays of the night on a 3-point basket he made from the floor while on his knees against Grand Valley State.

“The crowd was really into it that day,” Echols said about the shot. “We were on a run and I didn’t want to get a turnover, but one of my teammates [Johnson] always said that if you can’t pass the ball, just drive it to the rim and it just went in.”

With the statistics backing him up, Echols strongly believes he’ll live up to his own personal expectations.

“I do think that I am the best player in the conference coming into this year,” Echols said. “If anybody says different, that’s their opinion and I have my opinion.”

The season tips off Nov. 3, with the Green and Gold Scrimmage, followed up with GLIAC/GVC Challenge hosted by NMU on Nov. 10-11, with matchups against the McKendree University Bearcats and the Lewis University Flyers.

With the team picked to finish second in the GLIAC North Division preseason polls, all signs point toward Echols to lead the Wildcats towards another successful basketball season.