By Ryan Divish/Havre Daily News Sports Editorfirstname.lastname@example.org
No offense to the last two opponents of the Montana State University-Northern men's basketball team -Concordia University College and Augustana University College - but Saturday's opponent for the Lights is slightly more talented. Alright a lot more talented.
Northern will host the Montana All-Stars in exhibition action Saturday at 8 p.m. at the MSU-Northern gymnasium.
"This is definitely a step up in talent for us," said Lights head coach Shawn Huse. "This will be good for us to see a higher level of talent, athleticism, speed and strength. Everything is going to happen twice as fast as it did last week."
But just because the game is an exhibition, don't think for a second that it will be. Northern is using the game as preparation for next week's match-up against the Montana State Bobcats.
"This will be a good precursor before we play the Cats," Huse said. "Because that will be an even higher level of play.
Why is this game a precursor? Because, well, there are several former Bobcats on the squad, led by former all-Big Sky forward Aaron Rich.
Rich is a versatile 6-9 forward that can bang inside or step out and shoot the three. He will cause plenty of matchup problems for the Lights.
"Rich is as good as they come," Huse said. "He's very physical and can rebound with the best."
Joining Rich is former MSU teammates Jeff Riggs and Pete Conway. Riggs is an explosive point guard than can score in bunches with superior athleticism. Conway is a dangerous shooter from the outside, who is one of the Bobcat's all-time leading three-point shooters.
Another possible MSU player making the trip is 6-6 forward Calvin Ento.
Besides the Big Sky players there are several former Frontier College stars on the squad led by former Rocky Mountain and KG standout Jake Stuart.
Stuart, who confirmed he will be back on the Hi-Line Saturday night, helped lead Rocky to back-to-back Frontier Conference tournament titles during his career. He will make the pilgrimage home for one more chance to play in front of the home fans.
Joining Stuart will be Carroll College standout point guard Shane Gamradt. The diminutive Gamradt is the all-time leader in assists in the state of Montana and helped lead Carroll to the NAIA national tournament twice.
Gamradt's former teammates Chris Beery, Greg Johnson and Jay Jagelski are all listed as possibilities.
"The guys on this all-star team have won a lot of games in their day," Huse said. "They will be competitive because that's their nature. We need to match that competitiveness. It's going to be a physical, intense game."
Huse is anxious to see how his players react to the higher talent level.
"We're going to find out which guys can turn it up a notch and which guys can't," he said. "These are things we need to find before we get into our conference schedule."