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Fighting Hawks making strides as first season in Summit League approaches

Fighting Hawks guard Cortez Seales drives to the hoop in the first half of Sunday's game against Milwaukee. Nick Nelson / Grand Forks Herald

Cortez Seales was a sophomore on the 2016 UND men’s basketball team that won the Big Sky Conference and reached the NCAA Tournament for the first time in the program’s Division I history.

Seales now is one of two seniors on a UND team that has 11 new players. But the 6-foot-4 forward likes what he’s seen from the team’s youthful players so far.

“The way these guys compete reminds me of the year we went to the tournament,” said Seales. “There were a lot of young guys on that team that were able to compete. We have a competitive nature and as long as we keep a chip on our shoulder, we’ll be fine.”

UND is 5-5 and will host Mayville State on Friday night in the Fighting Hawks’ final home nonconference game of the season.

As expected, it’s been an up-and-down start to UND’s season. The Hawks showed minutes of solid play at No. 19 Kentucky; beat Milwaukee of the Horizon League on the road and took care of the home games they were expected to win against non-Division I programs.

But they struggled to protect leads on the road at Utah Valley and at Montana State, which recently knocked off Washington State on the road.

All in all, the season has gone about as expected as far as coach Brian Jones is concerned.

“From a record standpoint, I think we’re right where we thought we’d be when we put this schedule together,” said Jones. “We won a game on the road, which is hard to do. But we lost a game at home, which you never want to do.

“But we’re making strides. Some days, it’s slower than other days. Maybe the needle isn’t moving as fast as you’d like it to move, but it’s moving.”

Mayville State is 7-2 on the season and the Comets have been winning in a decisive manner. Their wins have come by 64, 75,65, 25, 22, 3 and 30 points.

They’re led by Gorg Alhag, who averages 15.0 points this season. Also, the Comets will be attempting to earn a second-straight trip to the NAIA Division II national tournament.

With a roster full of first-year players, UND surprisingly has received balanced scoring through 10 games. In seven of its 10 contests, UND has had at least three players score 10 or more points.

Seales leads the team with a 13.4 ppg average, followed by Conner Avants (11.6), who is the team’s other senior.

Aanen Moody averages 9.4 points off the bench while 6-8 senior forward Filip Rebraca averaged 8.5 ppg and 6.2 rebounds.

The Hawks may have Marlon Stewart back on the court Friday against the Comets. Stewart, who averaged 11.7 points last season, missed the first semester to concentrate on academics.

“He adds another dimension,” said Jones of Stewart. “He’ll add considerable depth to our roster.”

After the Mayville game, UND hits the road for a game at No. 21 Marquette next Tuesday before playing at Northern Iowa on Dec. 22.

UND’s first season as a Summit League member begins Dec. 28 at home against Fort Wayne. South Dakota State, with potential NBA Draft pick Mike Daum leading the way, is the league favorite.

But Seales is looking forward to competing in a new league, even with a young team.

“These guys have a lot of potential; that’s why they’re here,” said Seales.

Wayne Nelson
Nelson is the sports editor of the Herald
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