NATCHITOCHES – With a roster that features 11 newcomers and a new head coach, there are plenty of questions for Northwestern State men’s basketball fans.
Beginning Monday at No. 24/25 Texas Tech, those fans will get an introduction to the 2022-23 Demons – one that will give them answers quickly as Northwestern State opens the Corey Gipson era with three games in a six-day span, including two at home.
Following the trip to Lubbock, Texas, the Demons return home for a two-game homestand against Ouachita Baptist (12 p.m., Nov. 10) and Illinois State (7 p.m., Nov. 12).
“These guys have been working hard, and they’re tired of going up against each other,” Gipson said. “Obviously, we have a brotherhood and unconditional love for each other, but they’re looking forward to tangoing against somebody else.”
Northwestern State returns just three letter winners from its 2021-22 roster – guards Jovan Zelenbaba and Emaryeon McDonald as well as guard/forward Cedric Garrett.
That trio will be joined by a host of newcomers – four of which came from fellow Division I programs.
Three of those transfers – Demarcus Sharp, Ja’Monta Black and Isaac Haney – came from Missouri State where Gipson was the associate head coach.
“We have an outstanding staff, but we could not be at practice and those three guys could run practice,” Gipson said.
Sharp, Black and Haney are three of five new Demons with direct ties to Missouri.
The fourth Division I transfer, Jordan Wilmore, played the past two seasons at the University of Missouri while freshman wing Jalen Hampton is a native of St. Louis and a product of University City High School.
Forward Majok Kuath played the 2021-22 season at San Jose State, giving the Demons a fifth Division I transfer.
Two other Demons are connected with Missouri as junior college transfer Dayne Prim’s brother, Gaige, played for Gipson at Missouri State while freshman point guard Greedy Williams spent a postgraduate year at We Are United Prep in Nixa, Missouri.
Prim is one of two junior college transfers in the Northwestern State newcomer group, joining 6-foot-8 Reggie Hill.
Hill and Hampton both bring versatile skillsets to a Demon team that will play three Big 12 teams in the non-conference schedule.
“Those guys are do-it-all guys who bring so much to the table,” Gipson said. “They impact the game in so many ways.”
Williams and Hampton are in their debut collegiate seasons along with freshman guard Hansel Enmanuel, the No. 243 overall prep prospect according to 247Sports.com.
Enmanuel was the final addition to Gipson’s first NSU signing class, inking his letter of intent with the Demons in July.
“He didn’t get a chance to be here the eight weeks in the summer, but when he got here in the fall, the guys really helped integrate him into the system,” Gipson said.
Because of the transfer portal, the Demons added four players who have played a total of 174 Division I games to their trio of returners who have 148 games of experience at the D-I level.
The groups meshed quickly in the offseason thanks to an unselfish mentality.
“Ced is willing to sacrifice immediate gratification for the betterment of the team,” Gipson said. “Dayne Prim is another guy like that. He’ll do whatever we need.
“Jovan is an elder statesman. He’s been around the block. He has made an impact in a short amount of time. Emaryeon had a fantastic summer. He came in and really worked in the weight room. He looks confident. It’s helped him being around some veteran guys who have been around me before, but he’s also been a guy who embodies iron sharpening iron. They’ve made him better, but he’s also made them better.”
The blended roster that has embodied Gipson’s mantra of unconditional love has grown together but is – as expected – ready to see someone else in a game situation.
“It’s time to tango,” Gipson said. “This staff, we would not want tot tango with anyone but this group we have. They have really invested themselves in this program and in this community, and now it’s time to let them unleash that and express themselves on that wood.”