Howard Bison basketball coach Kevin Nickelberry knows it’s going to take some time for his young team to grow into its own. With four freshmen at the top of Nickelberry’s rotation, growing pains are to be expected. So it wasn’t a steep surprise to see Howard drop its 2011-2012-season opener 63-48 to the Bowling Green Falcons at Ohio’s Stroh Center on Nov. 11.
The young Bison fell behind 13-0 as Bowling Green executed a little payback for last season’s 54-52 setback at the hands of the 2010 Bison. Much has been made about Howard’s Metro area-laden recruiting class, a unit that features prominent names such as guard-forward Prince Okoroh from Eleanor Roosevelt High School, guard Brandon Ford, a Gwynn Park All-Met, forward Brandon Bailey from Largo High School, and center Oliver Ellison, from Gonzaga High School.
All four freshmen served the last few years of their high school careers starring on recognized programs in the region while rising to the top of their respected classes. But such youth could make for some early season struggles, which were evident on a night when the team was whistled for 27 fouls.
With its youngsters searching to find their way, Howard couldn’t even get its upperclassmen going. Junior forward Mike Phillips, a leading scorer on last year’s team, struggled from the field, connecting on just three of his 12 attempts for 10 points but made a strong effort on the glass as he reeled in 12 rebounds.
Phillip’s first basket actually broke a near seven-minute drought with 13:39 left in the first half as Howard nearly went the game’s first 10 minutes without a score. Despite a dismal showing, the team escapes the Midwest with just an 0-1 record.
The Bison could get things turned around when they host their home opener on Nov. 14 against Washington Adventist at 7 p.m.