MARQUETTE, Mich. – The Northern Michigan University Men's Basketball team saw successes not seen in a decade as they posted their first winning season and made their first Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Tournament appearance since the 2006-07 season.
Predicted to finish the season near the bottom of the GLIAC Standings, NMU instead finished the year tied for fourth and made the GLIAC Tournament as the fifth seed due to a one-point loss to fourth-seeded Ashland University, a loss they suffered without one of their top scorers and starting point guards.
Their 15 wins for the season and 12 GLIAC wins were also the most since 2006-07. Junior Naba Echols (Memphis, Tenn./Mitchell) and Isaiah Johnson (Whitefish Bay, Wis.) were named First-Team All-GLIAC, the first time NMU's men's program has placed anyone on the first team since 2008.
The pair tied for the team's lead in scoring, as they both averaged 17.5 points per game. Echols averaged double figures in all but four games and hit 20 points 12 times while leading the team in assists. Johnson led the team with 5.5 rebounds per outing and tied for the team's lead in three-point shooting. Johnson was also the only member of the team to start in every game.
Johnson reached a career-high by scoring 30 points in a victory over Wayne State University. Echols made national news when he made ESPN's Sportscenter in February with his made three-pointer from his knees after being knocked to the floor.
Echols and senior Jordan Perez (Greendale, Wis.) reached career-milestones on the same weekend as well. In the team's victory over WSU, Echols became the 30th player in program history to achieve 1,000 career points. In the team's win at Davenport the following Monday, Perez hit his 1,000th point to become the 31st player to achieve the mark.
Two sophomores also achieved recognition by earning GLIAC All-Defensive Team honors. Myles Howard (Chicago, Ill./Marian Catholic) finished second in the league with 1.8 blocks a game and was a force inside as he affected many more shots inside the paint. Sam Taylor (Chicago, Ill./Thornton) notched 40 steals on the season and continually caused frustration for the opponent with his pressure defense.
The season started on a high note when sophomore Will Carius (Bettendorf, Iowa/Pleasant Valley) hit a half-court shot at the buzzer to win the season-opener 79-78 over Lewis University. They then defeated University of Wisconsin-Parkside to start the season 2-0.
NMU also started the conference season strong, winning the first five GLIAC games to give the program their best start to league play, 5-0, in program history.
The Wildcats enjoyed a strong month of December, going 5-1 and included a 77-65 win over rival Michigan Technological University.
Northern Michigan will lose just two players from this year's team and will look to build on the momentum they gained this season as they look to achieve even more success in the 2018-19 season.