NATCHITOCHES - As Northwestern State opens preseason basketball practice Friday afternoon at 5:30 in Prather Coliseum, 13th-year head coach Mike McConathy welcomes back 2010-11 NCAA shot blocking champion William Mosley, but has to restock his team's scoring punch.
The Demons' Friday evening workout, along with their 6 a.m. Saturday drills and all preseason and regular-season practices in Prather Coliseum, are open to fans. NSU, 18-14 last year and second in the Southland Conference, plays an exhibition game at home Nov. 2 against Ouachita Baptist and tips off the 2011-12 season in Prather Coliseum on Nov. 11 against LeTourneau.
Northwestern graduated top scorers Devon Baker and Will Pratt, who combined for over 33 points per game. The top returning producer is senior guard Louis Ellis, at 8.8 points per game last year, and Mosley, with his 7.9 scoring average not as impactful as his 4.9 blocked shots per game combined with his 8.8 rebounding average.
The Demons are blending eight returning letterwinners with seven newcomers, including five scholarship signees.
"We are trying to find ourselves," said McConathy. "We're not in a very good place right now because we have a lot of uncertainty. We have players who understand competing at a high level, but we have two junior college and three high school guys who are making the adjustment to NCAA Division I basketball. We have to help them adjust to what we do, the level of competition, and fit their talents into our system.
"It's not an unfamiliar challenge for us but it is time sensitive because a month from now we're already into our schedule," he said.
Junior college transfers Gary Roberson and Demetrice Jacobs are expected to provide immediate offensive impact.
"We lost 33 points a game and some players who impacted what we do, but we feel Gary Roberson can give us similar output to Will Pratt," said McConathy. "Gary did a lot of the same stuff we do when he played at Natchitoches Central, whose coach Micah Coleman was on our staff earlier in his career. Then in junior college at Jacksonville, Gary played in a system under coach Jody Bailey that was very fast, very aggressive defensively and that translates well to him being able to succeed quickly here.
"Demetrice passes really well, shoots extremely well, when he gets set and gets his shots they go down. He's an exciting talent who has been in a highly successful junior college program (Missouri State-West Plains). He needs to get tougher and stronger with the ball, and hopefully that will occur sooner than later."
McConathy said veterans Ellis, Shamir Davis, James Hulbin and Gary Stewart, among others, are poised to step up their contributions.
"We have a core of returning players who have the capabilities to be much more impactful on a consistent basis than they were in the past. Our preseason practices are going to be very interesting watching their progress," he said.