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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Phay has something to prove

North Idaho College men’s basketball coach Jared Phay had the interim label removed from his title last March, but in some ways he feels like he’s still proving himself.

Phay was promoted to interim head coach six weeks before the 2004-05 season opener when Hugh Watson left for another job. Now, Phay has a year under his belt and he’s had a full recruiting season to assemble NIC’s roster.

He likes what he sees on paper. He’ll get a chance to see how the Cardinals perform on the court when North Idaho hosts the NBC Thunder at 7:30 tonight at Christianson Gym.

The game will count on NIC’s record.

“I knew it was a tough job,” Phay replied, when asked if the job was tougher than he anticipated. “Probably dealing with all the pressure was maybe even a little tougher because you can’t really prepare yourself for that.”

NIC appears primed to improve on last year’s 13-18, 5-13 Scenic West Athletic Conference season. Darin Nagle, a 6-foot-10 forward from Potlatch, returns after averaging 11.2 points and 6 rebounds last season. Nagle made 45 3-pointers last year, but he’s worked hard to boost his interior production, Phay said. Nagle has a long list of recruiters, but he’s told Phay he won’t make a decision until after the season.

Keelan Donald is also back, but he’ll move from point guard to shooting guard.

Donald also helped bring Northern Illinois transfer Frank Clair to Coeur d’Alene. Clair, a late addition, is a 6-6 wing whom Phay calls “our most complete player.”

Donald and Clair are friends and Chicago natives. Clair was academically ineligible for the second half of the season at Northern Illinois last year.

Freshmen Jordan Sutton, who helped Bethel High win the Washington 4A state title last year, and Mac Hopson, son of former Vandal Phil Hopson, are battling at point guard.

According to Phay, Sutton is more of a scorer, Hopson more of a true point guard.

Shea Bradshaw, who made 86 3-pointers last year, and Post Falls product Scott Stockwell should provide strong perimeter shooting.

“We definitely have guards that we can do a lot of stuff with, some three-guard things,” Phay said.

Nagle is joined on the inside by 6-8 freshmen Tommy Craddock and Zach Parks, as well as 6-5 Bayo Arigbon, a transfer from Yakima Valley.

Craddock, the probable starting center, is “toughing out” a shoulder injury,” Phay said. “We definitely need him.

“Depth inside is always a concern for everybody except (Southern Idaho),” Phay added. “I think we’re pretty quick and athletic. Everybody we brought in is probably one step up from what we had last year. I think we’ll run what we ran last year, but we’ll run it better with our personnel.”

Guards Nat Deswood, Robert Collins and Jovan Lincoln didn’t return from last year’s team. Harry Disy has moved on to Louisiana Tech, Steve Cobbley is at Utah State, Ante Pikunic is at South Carolina-Upstate, Foluke Tobin is at Lambuth University in Tennessee and Joseph Powell is redshirting at William Penn University in Iowa.

NIC will host the Cardinal Classic on Nov. 25-26, with games against Peninsula, a member of the Northwest Athletic Association of Community Colleges, and Williston (N.D.) State. The Cardinals also will play community Colleges of Spokane at Post Falls High on Dec. 13 as part of a doubleheader with the Trojans boys’ team.

The SWAC schedule format remains the same – single games in the first half, doubleheaders against the same foe in the second half.