DeKALB – In the world of college athletics, transfer students are becoming increasingly more common.
There is no exception for Northern Illinois men’s basketball. After sitting out a season, coach Mark Montgomery and the Huskies are looking forward to big contributions from Michael Orris and Anthony Johnson.
Orris is a 6-foot-2 point guard who transferred from Kansas State after his freshman year to be closer to home. Orris’ parents live in Crystal Lake. He is looking to fit into the Huskies’ backcourt as a point guard. Orris is a quick-minded passer looking to get people involved in the offense and create scoring opportunities for other players.
“My role coming from the point guard position is to get other guys an opportunity to score, and to see the floor as much as possible,” Orris said.
Johnson stands at 6-foot-3-inch and transferred from Purdue, where he played with Robbie Hummel and current Orlando Magic guard E’Twaun Moore. Johnson spent three seasons at Purdue, and played in two of those years before having to transfer to NIU to be closer to home, and especially his grandmother. While he does create opportunities for other people to make plays, the Whitney Young product’s primary role is to score for the Huskies.
“I think Coach is looking for me to score the ball mainly, but also to make plays for the other guys, every player wants to start, and I’m trying to make my teammates better any way that I can,” Johnson said.
With the NCAA transfer rules, both Johnson and Orris were ineligible to play a season ago.
After sitting out a year, it could have been a difficult transition for both players, but they believe their time off and work in practice has brought them back ready and hungrier to reach their potential.
Early in their summer workout process, both players believe that practicing with the team in 2013-14 has helped them mesh well with their teammates early in the offseason.
“It’s a different mindset this year than it was a season ago.” Orris said. “Obviously you’re still working hard and such when you’re just practicing, but now that we’re both eligible to play it is a different scenario for the two of us. Now, instead of just being practice players we are both trying to find our way into the rotation, onto the court.”
Montgomery believes the two guys are fitting in well early, and finding their way.
“Incorporating two guys who are very competitive and have some basketball skill is a nice sign, they work hard and are team guys that will give us a boost.” Montgomery said.
The return of Johnson and Orris, combined with a team that should be fully healthy heading into the season has the team thinking the boost Montgomery was talking about could be big things. Guard Dontel Highsmith, who was NIU’s leading scorer before suffering a torn ACL in late January, will be ready to go by the start of the season.
The Huskies finished 15-17 and won a first-round game in the Mid-American Conference Tournament.
“I think that we should be able to win the conference and play in the NCAA Tournament.” Johnson said. “Anything less than that is a failure to me, with the talent we have I see no reason why we cannot compete and play on the NCAA’s biggest stage.”