Departing stars create uncertainty for the Norse
Tyler Sharpe, Dantez Walton and Jalen Tate helped Northern Kentucky finish in second place in the Horizon League last year before rolling to a Horizon League Tournament win and an automatic berth in the cancelled NCAA Tournament. Sharpe earned Second Team All-Horizon League honors while Walton and Tate were Third Team All-League picks. At the conclusion of the season, Sharpe and Walton concluded their college careers while Tate opted to transfer to Arkansas for his senior season.
Without three of the league’s top players from last year, Northern Kentucky will be relying heavily on its lone double-digit scorer from 2020 Trevon Faulkner to carry a much bigger portion of the workload and for a large crop of newcomers to figure out how to jell with the returning players quickly.
Carlos Hines – If he returned to Northern Arizona for his junior year Hines would’ve been the team’s returning leader in points, assists and steals per game. The 6-foot-4 guard averaged 12.9 points, 4.0 assists, 2.5 rebounds and 1.4 steals per game after emerging as the team’s starting point guard as a sophomore. Given the former Northern Arizona role player Karl Harris’ solid performance on a loaded Northern Kentucky roster last year, there’s reason to be optimistic about how the former NAU starter Hines’ transition to the Norse will go. He could be one of the top newcomers in the Horizon League this year.
John Harge – Harge was one of Darrin Horn’s first recruits at Northern Kentucky in 2019, but missed last season with a torn ACL. The 6-foot-8 forward averaged 19.9 points, 7.7 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 1.8 blocks per game at Hillcrest Prep in 2019. If he can come anywhere close to the 41 percent 3-point shooting performance he put up at Hillcrest, Harge will give the Norse a versatile threat that could make him an All-Freshman Team candidate.
Darius Harding – The 6-foot-5 wing averaged 19.3 points and 6.0 rebounds per game at Motlow State last year. Harding was rated as one of the 100 best Junior College prospects by JUCORecruiting.com. Given Northern Kentucky’s lack of frontcourt options, it’s possible the Norse may sometimes opt for a small lineup with Harding acting as the second post player.
Marques Warrick – Cracking into a backcourt rotation that features five established veteran Division I players and a top JUCO recruit might be a tall task, but a player as talented as Warrick could pull it off. The 6-foot-3 guard was a finalist for Kentucky’s Mr. Basketball award after averaging 23.2 points and 4.8 rebounds per game as a senior at Henry Clay High School.
David Böhm – If Harge isn’t back up to speed following last year’s ACL injury, Böhm likely becomes the de facto second starter in the post due to Northern Kentucky’s extreme lack of frontcourt options. Like Harge, Böhm is a 6-foot-8 post player who can knock down shots from the perimeter. He also brings international experience with him to NKU. He averaged 13.6 points and 5.3 rebounds with for the Czech Republic at the 2019 FIBA U18 Division B Tournament.
Trey Robinson – The 6-foot-6 wing from Hamilton, Ohio averaged 19.5 points and 6.4 rebounds per game last year. He was an Honorable Mention Division I All-State selection by the Ohio Prep Writers Association in 2020. After Robinson signed, Darrin Horn cited his length and versatility as some of the attributes they liked in him. Like Harding, he could be an option if the Norse decide to use a small ball lineup.
Bryson Langdon – Langdon started 22 games for the Norse last year in a season where the team went long stretches with at least one of its three stars sidelined due to injury. While Northern Arizona transfer Carlos Hines is also an experienced starter at point guard, the guy who has proven he can do it at NKU gets the nod as the primary ballhandler for now.
Carlos Hines – With an established floor general at NKU, Hines will be able to focus on creating his own shot while also posing a threat to use the point guard skills he’s demonstrated to create for others. Look for the newcomer to compete with Trevon Faulkner to be the team’s top scorer this year.
Trevon Faulkner – The lone returning fulltime starter for Northern Kentucky is guard Trevon Faulkner. The 6-foot-3 guard averaged 11.9 points and 4.1 rebounds as a sophomore last year. Many expect Faulkner to have a breakout year and become an All-League player following the departures of Tyler Sharpe, Jalen Tate and Dantez Walton.
John Harge – One of two freshmen post players who brings size and shooting touch to the Norse roster, Harge gets the nod over David Böhm due to having a year learning NKU’s system under his belt. If Harge isn’t fully recovered from his injury or is otherwise unable to lock down the starting job Böhm seems like the next most likely to win it. Harding and Robinson could also be options if the team decides to play small.
Adrian Nelson – NKU’s second leading rebounder from a year ago, Nelson returns to the Norse as one of three scholarship post players and appears to be a lock to start this year. The 6-foot-7 junior pulled down 6.3 rebounds per contest while sharing a front court with Dantez Walton and Silas Adheke. With a pair of veterans being replaced by a pair of more perimeter-oriented freshmen, don’t be surprised to see Nelson become a double-double machine and one of the league’s breakout stars by pure necessity this season.
On paper, the Norse have a strong crop of newcomers ready to step onto the court this year. At the same time, replacing three All-League performers seems like it’ll be an even taller task than trying to replace 2019 Horizon League Player of the Year Drew McDonald was last year.
While the team brought in a number of promising pieces, Northern Kentucky is severely lacking in size and will be relying heavily on unproven players this season. With only one senior this year, it’s possible that NKU could be reloading now for a serious bounceback season in 2022.
Prediction: 7th Place