The young, new UND men's basketball roster will play a conference game as a Summit League member for the first time at 7 p.m. Friday night against Fort Wayne at the Betty Engelstad Sioux Center.
With at least five first-year players in the regular rotation, the Fighting Hawks received a big boost the past two games from one of the program's more experienced players.
Creighton transfer Marlon Stewart, UND's top returning scorer from last season, missed the first half of the year for academic reasons but is back in the mix as the Fighting Hawks' first Summit experience begins.
"He's a physical guard who can press the tempo and get his feet to the paint, whether that's to score or make plays for others," UND coach Brian Jones said. "We're getting the rust off him. As he gets more acclimated, we're going to see our team take another step. He's another guy who can score and create his own shots and can guard bigger guards.
"He hasn't had a lot of reps with the guys in the rotation, so that's a process we're going through as well."
Stewart, a 6-foot-3, 200-pound guard, averaged 11.7 points per game last season and was eased back into the lineup in UND's last two games-at Marquette and at Northern Iowa.
The junior from Rock Island, Ill., had five games of 20 or more points last year, including a 29-point outburst against Montana State in the Big Sky Conference tournament.
Stewart had seven points against Marquette and nine against Northern Iowa.
With Stewart out the first half of the season, his former North Scott High School teammate Cortez Seales has led the way with a Top 10 Summit League scoring average of 13.8 points per game, which is ninth in the league.
Conner Avants (11.3 points per game), Filip Rebraca (9.3) and Aanen Moody (9.1) have helped fill the scoring void in the first half without Stewart, as well.
The Fighting Hawks have navigated the non-conference schedule with a 6-7 record, which includes four non-Division I wins and two D1 wins against the same school-Milwaukee.
Now, UND sets its sights on the Summit League.
"This is new for all of us," Jones said. "The teams, the travel. We're still figuring it out, but I think our team has made tremendous strides. There's still such a high ceiling with this group, which is why I'm excited."
Against Fort Wayne (8-7 overall), UND fans will see one of the league's elite players in 6-foot-5 guard John Konchar, who's the Summit's third-leading scorer at 18.6 points per game and second-leading rebounder at 9.3.
According to sports-reference.com, Konchar is only the second player since 1992-93 in all of Division I men's basketball to reach 1,500 points, 1,000 rebounds, 400 assists and 200 steals in a career.
"Through his four years, different teams have thrown a lot of different looks at him-size, speed, athleticism and physicality," Jones said. "None of it bothers him. It's how can we do a good enough job on him but not allow their support guys to have big nights for them."
Fort Wayne (8-7)
at UND (6-7)
When: 7 p.m., tonight.
Where: Betty Engelstad Sioux Center.
All-time series: Mastodons lead 2-0.
TV/webcast: Midco Sports Network, Fox Sports Go, ESPN-Plus
Radio: 100.3 FM