Northeastern State is starting its first season as a member of the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association in 2012-2013. But the RiverHawks have squared off against many of the conference members out of league play in previous years.
Head coach Larry Gipson has been matched up against MIAA opponents often in Tahlequah and on the road.
“We’re not really new to playing teams in the MIAA,” Gipson said. “In my 15 years here, we’ve played Washburn and Emporia several times, as well as Missouri Southern and Pittsburg State, and Northwest Missouri a couple of times. We’ve seen them in the regular season and in the post season.
“I think I have a pretty good feel for how good and how demanding the league is. I’m looking for to the atmosphere and our team is excited to be here.”
Northeastern State was picked to finish 14th in the 15-team conference in both the media and the coaches’ polls that were released earlier today. But Gipson said that he believes his team is ready to be a part of the tough competition the MIAA provides night in and night out.
“I hope people will see that we’re an intelligent team that plays hard,” Gipson said. “We’re a team that prides itself in taking care of the basketball and works hard for a good shot.
“I don’t think that you’ll see anything unique out of us that you haven’t already seen in the league. You’re going to have to have good players and play very well on both ends of the court to be successful in this league.”
The RiverHawks bring a team to the court this season with six seniors, players that lived through the difficulties of the 2011-12 season, that finished at 5-21. And Gipson presented some of the reasons for that result: academic ineligibility, injuries and also the news that he received in October 2011 that he had prostate cancer. (Gipson also said that his surgery and recovery have gone well and that he feels well and recharged right now.)
“I think it was just the perfect storm for having a poor season,” Gipson said. “But the seniors that we have, the players that are returning, have learned from that experience and are very determined to rectify that situation.”
And Gipson went on to tout those seniors.
“I like the leadership of our seniors,” Gipson said. “Every one is a very hard worker and tries to show the new guys what’s required of them to participate here. Our practices are spirited with a high amount of energy and a good attitude and I think that comes directly from the six seniors we have in the program.”
Among those seniors is Ethan Anderson, the only four-year player on this NSU squad. Anderson returns as the second leading scorer and second leading rebounder from the previous season.
“Ethan was a freshman on an excellent team that won 20 games, so he’s had some success,” Gipson said. “ But the last two years have been a struggle. And frankly, we haven’t had good leadership from our upperclassmen. And I think that Ethan has seen that and has gone out of his way to be a good leader.”
The RiverHawks get their season underway on Nov. 12 against long-time rival Northwestern in the first of four consecutive home games. The MIAA slate begins on Dec. 5, also at Jack Dobbins Fieldhouse.