Remember when Northern Kentucky upset West Virginia last season on a 25-foot shot from junior Eshaunte Jones with 1.1 seconds left? No?
Well that happened at a Nov. 4 exhibition game, and Northern Kentucky was playing as a Division-II team. The Mountaineers would go on to beat a lot of quality opponents in their 19-win season, while everyone sort of forgot about the Norse, that team that had ruined the night for whatever fans had shown up to watch the Mountaineers win a casual exhibition.
The Nebraska loyal, however, should remember Jones. He averaged over 12 minutes per game in 28 contests while a Cornhusker in his freshman and sophomore seasons. He was a four-star recruit in high school that originally committed and then de-committed to Oregon State following their coaching change. He apparently was also at one time committed to Indiana.
He reportedly left school to attend to family business back in Indiana and then popped up at NKU last fall. That last-second thriller against West Virginia was his debut. The 6-4 combo guard drained 44.2 percent of his shots from range last season and averaged 10.7 ppg (if only Ken Pomeroy kept D-II stats) as the team's second-leading scorer.
Last December NKU announced its long-awaited move to D-I play. The Norse have been granted official membership status in the now Belmont-less Atlantic Sun conference as the league's northernmost member.
Jones is back.
NKU's schedule for this season includes games against Ohio State, Navy and Texas Tech as well as the full A-Sun rundown.
What's best, though, is that the Norse could really cause some problems for the rest of the A-Sun. Jeff Eisenberg gave no mention whatsoever to the Norse in his A-Sun preview and ranked the team dead last despite a horde of ailing programs.
Kennesaw St., which Eisenberg ranked ninth, loses two starters from its 3-28 team, and Lipscomb is dealing with the loss of Jordan Burgason and Justin Glenn.
Northern Kentucky, while new on the scene, brings some quality experience flankingJones and benefits from its location in a basketball state. They've posted a 20-win season five years running under veteran head coach Dave Bezold.
“Kids wouldn’t answer your phone call,” Schappell told The Northerner about recruiting in Kentucky. “They are starting to talk to us more now that we are Division I. It’s made it a little easier.”
Chad Jackson is another returning starter. The 6-4 swingman originally played at D-I James Madison, and averaged 9.4 points and 5.3 rpg last season.
Ethan Faulkner returns at point for the Norse. The 6-1 senior has collected a 2.0 assist to turnover ratio in his three-year career with 8.7 assists and 4.4 turnovers per game in his 46 career starts. He's a local kid that plays scrappy in the back court; he gets about 2.3 steals a game.