DiNunno Looks to Make Impact at NIU

ESPN's Dick Vitale calls them Diaper Dandies. Others simply call them Freshman Phenoms. Whatever you want to call him, Northern Illinois freshman guard Mike DiNunno hopes to make an impact as a freshman for the Huskies on the hardwood this season.

In Northern Illinois' first exhibition game of the 2008-09 season, Mike DiNunno came off the bench to play a team-high 31 minutes. In the 84-72 win over NAIA school Freed-Hardeman, DiNunno scored a game-high 20 points and dished out five assists.

In his second exhibition game against Carthage, DiNunno had a bullseye instead of a numeral on his back. Carthage's defense held DiNunno to five points. Yet he managed to contribute with two steals, four rebounds and four assists in the contest.

"Mike DiNunno every day in practice has shown the ability to make shots," said NIU men's basketball coach Ricardo Patton. "He not only makes shots, he creates some easy buckets for different guys on the floor too. He's a real heady basketball player. He has the moxie it takes to become one of the best players in our conference."

The guard comes to DeKalb from Von Steuben High School in Chicago after spending his first two years at Lake Park High School in Roselle. DiNunno averaged 22 points, 4.3 rebounds and 5.2 assists per game as a senior. Mike led the Panthers to a 24-6 record and a sectional title as a senior and a 26-5 record and sectional championship as a junior.

In the first exhibition game, DiNunno shot six of 13 from beyond the three point arc. He has had little difficulty adjusting to the new three point distance in the NCAA this season.

"In high school, I never really shot from the line," DiNunno said. "I was always three or four feet back. It really didn't take me very long to adjust to the line. I got used to it in practice. Actually, most of the time I wasn't thinking about where I was. I just wanted to get the shot off. The defense was moving pretty quick."

DiNunno hasn't had too much difficulty making the transition to the next level. "It's been going good," Mike shared. "The biggest thing is the conditioning and the length of the game. Not being able to be in the game as long as in high school. In high school I could stay in the whole 32 (minutes). Now we play eight more minutes. The game is so much more fast-paced. Definitely the speed of the game is one of the biggest things I've had to get used to."

One part of his game that DiNunno had to work on coming into NIU was team defense. "It's a lot more of just playing ball in the city," said Mike. "Just going out there and getting after it and full court pressing. We didn't really worry a lot about defensive principles and assignments."

"I've learned a lot of defensive principles," DiNunno remarked. "We didn't go through a lot of what (Patton) teaches in high school. I've learned a lot of little things like helpside defense, on-the-ball defense, and other things you can do to get yourself an advantage. Those are the biggest things I've been able to gather from Coach P. so far."

As the 2008-09 NIU basketball season progresses, we'll be keeping an eye on Mike DiNunno's progress and contributions as a freshman.

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