New Purdue North Central coach Jim Black envisioned a small college as a nice place to make his final coaching stop.
“I always appreciate kids who love playing the game as opposed to playing for a scholarship,” Black said. “We have good high school players who love the game and wanted to continue to play at the next level.”
Black, who spent the past few seasons as an assistant to his son Mike Jr. at Hobart, boasts previous collegiate coaching experience. He was an assistant at NCAA Division I programs Arkansas-Little Rock and Lamar from 1987 to 1992.
In coaching stints at Wheeler, Crown Point, Jay County and Lake Central, Black’s teams won six sectional titles and five conference championships and advanced to the regional final three times.
Black’s last season as a head coach was at Lake Central in 2005, but he said coaching isn’t something easily forgotten.
“It’s like getting back on a bicycle after being off for a few years; you don’t forget how to ride.”
The Panthers, who finished last season with a record of 5-25 overall and 4-10 in the Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference, have seven upperclassmen and nine underclassmen on the roster.
Nick Neal, who averaged 20.3 points per game last season, graduated, but David Kelly (8.3 points and 6.8 rebounds per game) and Alphonse Futch (8.6 points per game) return.
“We can be led in scoring by five or six guys,” Black said. “We are not going to have one or two guys that we live or die on how we are going to play.”
Nick Lafty (Hobart), who averaged 4.7 points per game as freshman, returns for his sophomore season. DeMonte Dinkins (Lew Wallace), Kewon Ollie (Merrillville), Cwon Terrell (Merrillville), Matthew Brown (Hobart) and Aaron Ciesielski (Portage) give the Panthers a decided Northwest Indiana feel.
Black said he hopes to give 10 or 11 players significant minutes in each game.
“There is no starting lineup that will last for 30 games,” he said. “There will be a starting seven or eight that we change depending on matchups.”
Black sees his first season behind the bench as a stepping-stone of building up the PNC program. He said the CCAC is more difficult this year. With 24 conference games, each program will play both the NAIA Division I and Division II teams in the league.
“We are looking forward to bringing this program up to represent PNC and Northwest Indiana,” he said.