HAVRE — The Montana State-Northern men's and women's basketball teams are ready to hit the ground running as they both get into competitive schedules in less than a week.
The Skylights finished 8-21 last season, but they bring back a lot of experience for the new year. Chris Mouat, in his 19th season at MSUN, said the team is still in the beginning of the process of figuring out who and what they are as a team, but he does like where they are right now.
“I think the big thing with this team is we've got 10 returners, and we haven’t had that many in a long time," he said. "We've got (players) coming back that know what to do, and we just have to do it better than we did before."
Within those returners is L’Tia Lawrence. She was a redshirt during the 2022-23 season, but prior to that she averaged double figures for the Skylights. With the return of Lawrence, the Skylights have another scorer to help their offense get in a groove. Another returning double-digit scorer is senior forward Ryley Kehr. Starting all 29 games last season for the Skylights, Kehr averaged more than 11 points per game in addition to 5 rebounds and 2 assists.
New faces for the Skylights include Savannah Seiler, Karina Cabrera and McKenzie Long. Seiler and Cabrera both come from Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa, California, where they won the California Community College Athletic Association state championship. Seiler averaged 6 points and 9 rebounds, while Cabrera added over 15 points per game, earning her all-conference honors. Long joined the team from Walla Walla Community College where she contributed just under 14 points per game.
For the men’s team, the Lights were picked to finish third place in the Frontier Conference. After graduating two all-conference players and the defensive player of the year, coach Shawn Huse will look to his new recruits as well as his returners to lead this team.
“I think with our returners, a couple of our young guys, redshirts … I think we’ll be like we typically are and be really good by committee,” said Huse.
One player that will have a huge role on this year's team is sophomore guard Dae’Kwon Watson. Watson was a 2022-23 all-conference honorable mention, sixth man of the year and freshman of the year. He will be stepping into a bigger role, transitioning from coming off the bench to a starting role.
"Going from a sixth man to a starter is a huge jump in my eyes," Watson said. "I’m becoming more of a leader for the younger guys and people in my grade that haven’t really played last year and those that are new coming in, too. I need to be able to lead and produce as a start."
Surrounding him will be returners like Zachary Martinez and Myles Dalton, who both started every game for the Lights during the previous season. They have also added Anthony Mendez, Xavier Bailey and JJ Thomas. Mendez is a double figure scorer who shot nearly 50% from beyond the arc and was an all-conference guard. Bailey helped his previous team to a regional championship where he averaged just under 10 points and was named to the East Region all-defensive team. Thomas has a decorated resume highlighted by his all-American honor to go along with first-team all-region and defensive player of the year recognition.
The Lights' first game will be in Butte against Portland Bible College on Saturday, while the Skylights get underway on Monday with an exhibition match against MSU Billings.