DeKALB – Marke Freeman can whittle down her offseason to one place: Huskie Stadium.
The Northern Illinois junior guard and the rest of her teammates spent almost every day of the summer there working on agility and quickness in preparation for the upcoming season. With less depth in the post than last season, the Huskies will attempt to utilize their speed and agility, two traits Freeman is known for, this season.
Throughout the summer, Freeman and her teammates found themselves running a variety of drills, and not only did Freeman feel the team improved in those areas, but she learned a few things, as well.
"You never know how many lines are on the football field until you run it every day for months," Freeman said. "It's amazing how many different things they can do with a football field."
But all that work has resulted in NIU coming into the preseason in great shape and, for the first time in Carol Owens' five-year tenure, with everyone healthy.
"We're definitely in better shape than we were last year," Freeman said. "That's a big difference because we don't have to concentrate as much on the conditioning part. We can just get into the real stuff."
Owens said she's noticed the offseason commitment in the conditioning of her team just a few practices into the season.
With the Huskies able to set their focus directly to X's and O's instead of running laps, the team has been able to try to find an identity for this season. Owens has a few ideas on that, something Freeman, last season's Mid-American Conferece Sixth Player of the Year, can help with tremendously.
"I think we can be small yet quick," Owens said. "We have people that want to score. Do I think that we are a great three-point shooting team? No. But we have people that can shoot the three. We have people that can get to the basket."
And a strong offseason has Owens thinking her team can be within reach of its goals late into the season.
"I would be happy if we were peaking at the right time, in February," Owens said. "I don't think we'll be playing our best basketball right now. But I like that we're healthy and in shape and I like the leadership because that will pay off."