Norse welcome Robert Morris with 2-game sweep while the rotation remains fluid

0
813

Coach Horn and the Norse, led by FOtW (for a fifth time) Marques Warrick, sent a timely welcome to the Robert Morris Colonials as they defeated them twice in their home gym. But there are still questions that need to be answered with this team.

I must admit, I was a little nervous. Heck, I’m still not feeling great but I feel alot better. As Chris Capella and I discussed last week, both teams were coming into the weekend series needing wins, but in my mind, only one team was desperate, and thus in a more advantageous position. The Colonials, last season’s NEC champions, were not used to lising like this, and they certainly were not content with it. A team filled with upperclassmen certainly would not let one, much less BOTH games slip from their grasp. I went into the weekend with zero expectations. So much so that, as the clock ran out on Saturday night giving way to the final buzzer, and the Norse were destined for a second victory in as many nights, I could not help but breathe a sigh of relief. Then, I went and grabbed a beer out of the fridge and moved over to Zoom to have a fun conversation with Bob on Horizone Gamenight. Life is so much better when you win.

Subscribe to Norse Report’s Free Weekly Newsletter for all the best updates on the NKU Norse

The importance of victory

The Norse entered the weekend series against Robert Morris at risk of two things: A loss on Saturday night would tie the Norse worst losing streak in conference play, in the Horizon League era. A loss on either night would tie the most conference losses in since the 2016-17 season, the first year the Norse made the tournament. Add in the pandemic, a brand new team that nobody knows about, the seemingly never ending political discourse in this country, and the fact that you cannot attend games in person, it’s fair to say that the Norse fanbase has been less than enthusiastic this year. I was trying to keep calm, but I knew how important this weekend series would be. If we sweep, we give ourselves a really good chance to “activate” our fanbase at some point this season. If we lose, forget about it.

Photo by: NKY Tribune

Who is leading this team?

The Norse came out both nights and made an effort to do something fans have been begging them to do for the entirety of the season, get the ball inside. You certainly felt the Norse willing to take more chances, move the ball around, rather than letting it die in the hands of one player. They made the extra pass, shot shots that were actually open (for the most part) and did a good enough job of making them. The Norse also saw contributions coming from all over the roster over the weekend, which has become a theme of sorts, anyone can step up and have a role any given weekend.

The Norse have found some consistency with a few key players, but for the most part, the rotation has been fluid this season. In fact, it feels like the Norse have somewhat of a “revolving door” at their 5th starter spot, not to mention the bench has fluctuated quite a bit since the conference season started.

I know what you’re thinking… That’s alot of data. Why don’t we make this easier and start with the easiest part, the constants. These are the four players who have solidified their role (for the most part) in the rotation as they key guys for the Norse.

Starting…. 4?

Most teams have a rotation of 5 players who start the game and get “starter minutes” (around 30 per game). On occaision, you’ll see a team with a solid “starting 4”, but the player who would normally fill their 5th starting role prefers to come off of the bench, while still playing “starter minutes”. In the case of NKU, they’ve had four players accrue “starter minutes”, two players rotate in and out of the 5th starting spot, and another seven players competiting throughout the year to fill out the rotation. Yes, strangely enough, NKU is 10 games into the conference season and has 13 players averaging 6 minutes per game in conference play. It’s wild. Let’s just start with what we know:

Trevon Faulkner, Marques Warrick, Bryson Langdon and Adrian Nelson have held down solid roles in the starting rotation. Langdon is the starting point guard and holding down the “floor general” role. Trevon Faulkner and Marques Warrick are the two starting “wings”, both filling what’s become the interchangeable roles of the more traditionally named “Shooting Guard” and “Small Forward” in the NKU rotation. Finally, the anchor of the team, Adrian Nelson, is the main “big” on the team. Traditionally more of a “4” (or Power Forward), a lack of size has forced Nelson into the “man in the middle” type of role, in which he’s performed admirably.

The 5th Guy

David Bohm and Trey Robinson have been somewhat interchangable in the 5th spot of the Norse rotation. Bohm started the first 6 games, but during the IUPUI series, Robinson got the start over Bohm. It was reported by Jim Kelch, the radio broadcaster for the Norse that prior to the Robert Morris series, Bohm approached Coach Horn and asked to come off of the bench. He said it made him feel more comfortable doing so. I remember hearing this and thinking “Okay, great – we finally have our consistent starting 5.” Robinson started both games, putting up 11 and 2 minutes respectively. Head hurt yet? Well try this on for size, Bohm would go on to have 26 minutes off the bench in the first of the two games, and only 6 minutes in the second game, yielding significant playing time to the likes of Paul Djoko, Adham Eleeda, Jacob Evans, etc.

The “Others”

Looking at the minutes played over the flow of the conference season tends to revolve around a key moment: the Adham Eleeda injury. It seems like when Eleeda went down, pretty much everyone got a chance, then when we returned this weekend (primarily in the second game), it ate into a couple of guys’ minutes completely, but it also reduced the others’ quite a bit.

Pre-Eleeda Injury (vs. Youngstown State)

Illustrated above, David Bohm held down the 5th starter spot against the Penguins with Adham Eleeda getting the “6th man” role. Trey Robsinson compiled a total of 17 minutes, Carlos Hines got 16 minutes and other than some sporadic time from Harding and Huppman in game 1 and a 5 minutes spurt from Djoko in game one, that was pretty much it. The Norse went 1-1 and it seemed pretty normal. Little did we know, the next 6 games would bring total fluidity to the lineup due to an Adham Eleeda injury.

Photo by: NKU Athletics

Eleeda down for (most of) the next 6 game, rotation opens wide

The Norse followed their 1-1 series against Youngstown stretch with 6 straight games where they would be without 6’5″ sharpshooting wing Adham Eleeda. What many might think of as a simple “plug and play” isn’t really that simple. At 6″5″ (6’6″ on a good day), Adham Eleeda provides the Norse with much needed size and length on the bottom of their matchup zone, while also providing them with the spacing of a guard on the offensive end. Eleeda is NKU’s best pure shooter, and his ability to stretch the defense by providing a legitimate deep 3-point shooting threat is vital to the spacing the Norse need on offense. Replacing Eleeda proves difficult because in a sense, you are replacing a guard on offense and a forward on defense. I believe that is reflected in the charge above. You see an obvious increase in Robinson, Harge and Harding’s minutes, all of which, more or less, can be “Eleeda-like” but none of which really took the role and owned it. In fact, you’ll notice that even Harge, who opened up with 36 minutes in two games against PFW – only matched that with 36 minutes over the next four games. Harding also saw a significant decrease in palying time against IUPUI, as walk-on freshman Jacob Evans was emerging as a key contributor off the bench.

Eleeda Returns Against Robert Morris

And that brings us to where we are now. The Norse have been shuffling the deck all season, and this past weekend wasn’t any different. In fact, after this weekend it feels like the Norse took a normal playing card deck, combined it with UNO cards, shuffled it and said “Okay now deal”. There is no real rhythm here, but that’s okay. We all knew it was coming, and personally I prefer it this way. Coming into the season, we knew we had 13 players on our roster who needed to be able to show us something this year.

Bryson Langdon, Adrian Nelson, Adham Eleeda and Trevon Faulkner were the returning players who played a ton of minutes last year. In some respects, we knew what we were getting from them, but we had never seen any of them in an expanded role with the Norse. To their own varying degrees of success, it’s fair to say that they’ve all been fairly successful in those new roles this year.

Northern Kentucky guard Bryson Langdon (11) drives on Purdue-Fort Wayne guard Jarred Godfrey (1) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Friday, Jan. 1, 2021, in Highland Heights, Ky. (Albert Cesare/The Cincinnati Enquirer via AP)

Marques Warrick, David Bohm and Trey Robinson were the 3 scholarship-recieving freshman that fans were super excited to see. Warrick has given us the most of the 3. It’s clear he has arrived and is ready to take his game to the next level already. Bohm and Robinson have had their moments, but their inconsistency has cost them. I believe given some time in a real offseason, with the proper amount of weight training, they could really find their role in the near future.

David Bohm and Trey Robinson have been somewhat interchangable in the 5th spot of the Norse rotation. Bohm started the first 6 games, but during the IUPUI series, Robinson got the start over Bohm. It was reported by Jim Kelch, the radio broadcaster for the Norse that prior to the Robert Morris series, Bohm approached Coach Horn and asked to come off of the bench. He said it made him feel more comfortable doing so. I remember hearing this and thinking “Okay, great – we finally have our consistent starting 5.” Robinson started both games, putting up 11 and 2 minutes respectively. Head hurt yet? Well try this on for size, Bohm would go on to have 26 minutes off the bench in the first of the two games, and only 6 minutes in the second game, yielding significant playing time to the likes of Paul Djoko, Adham Eleeda, Jacob Evans, etc.

Photo by: NKU Athletics

Darius Harding and Carlos Hines, our two transfers this year have been somewhat of a disappointment. I personally had no expectations of Hines because I did not know much about him, and I know he has grades issues and was injured most of last year – so the letdown doesn’t hit as hard. Harding is a bit of a letdown, because we were so excited with what he could do on offense and he was a top 100 JUCO recruit last year. My understanding is that he has not been consistent on defense, and for those who know Horn, defense is everything.

Paul Djoko and John Harge were also two returning players who have been up and down all year. Djoko came on strong at the end of last year, playing his way into the rotation of an HL championship team. His achilles heel has always been his offensive production. His playing time seems to go hand-in-hand with his willingness to be aggressive on offense (and all over the place) on defense. Norse fans saw that in the second game this weekend, as he made great use of the opportunity Darrin Horn gave him and earned 32 minutes of floor time. John Harge, the 6’8″ second-year (medical) red-shirt freshman is another player we expected more from this year. Harge was a prep school recruit who averaged 41% from 3 in his senior season. All signs pointed to him being a “Dantez Walton” type but the Norse have failed to find consistency in him this year. Fortunately Harge is a fantastically talented player, so there is plenty of time for him to prove himself (and he did play pretty well against Purdue Fort Wayne).

Photo by: Cincinnati Enquirer

Finally, I’d be remiss if I failed to mention Jake Evans and Noah Huppman. Those two have been seeing their number called more and more as the season went on, which is a huge surprise for two walk-on freshmen. It comes as no surprise to me though, as I reported upon signing both players that the expectation was they would be “project” players. If the Norse have a couple of open couple of scholarships before next season, and these two continue to perform like they are, I think it’s definitely possible that they get a look for one.

Who to watch vs. UIC

I think that pretty much lays it all out. Unfortunately I cannot tell you who the Norse will be running out against UIC, outside of the top 4 in the rotation, but I think it’s fair to say that the coaching staff is using this “COVID season” the right way – digging deep into their bag and finding out what they have in each player on the roster. I encourage fans to keep watching, because like a young child, you’re going to look back on this team’s infancy one day with a smile on your face and be glad that you went through the ups and downs with them.


Be on the lookout for more @NorseReport content in the coming weeks. We have a couple of videos coming out this week breaking down the Norse’s last week of action, and highlighting a key 2021 signee.

There are other ways to keep up with Norse Report, too! Follow, subscribe or hit the like button on all of these channels as well!

Leave a Reply