Nader receives word he’s eligible to play for Northern Illinois
Niles North graduate Abdel Nader (23) averaged 25 points and 8.6 rebounds last season while leading the Vikings to their first sectional crown. | Joel Lerner~Sun-Times Media
Updated: October 28, 2011 12:16PM
After a road filled with twists of turns, Niles North alum Abdel Nader still will be playing college basketball for a coach who played guard in the Big Ten.
But instead of joining former Indiana star Steve Alford at New Mexico, the 2011 all-stater has become a major recruiting coup for new Northern Illinois head coach and former Michigan State point guard Mark Montgomery.
Nader signed with the Huskies late last month, but questions still remained over the 6-foot-7, 195-pounder’s eligibility for this coming season. But on Sunday, Nader said he would be eligible to play for NIU as a freshman.
“I’m going to be playing in the fall. I was waiting on my (high school) grades and ACT score. I’m good to go,” said Nader, who averaged 23.8 points and 8.6 rebounds for the 2010-11 Vikings, who went 24-6 and won the school’s first Central Suburban League and sectional titles.
Speaking on the phone from DeKalb, Nader already is enrolled in summer school and is training and playing pickup ball with his future teammates.
The weight-room sessions are intense. But Nader knew what he was signing up for when he agreed to play for Montgomery, who spent the last decade next to taskmaster Tom Izzo as an assistant at Michigan State.
“That kind of mentality where they demand a lot, that attracted me (to NIU),” Nader said “You have to play for people who are going to push you.”
Nader, who transferred to Niles North from Maine East before his junior season, was an inside player early in his prep career. But his game gradually expanded and he became a consistent perimeter threat last season. Northern Illinois coaches have told Nader he will play small forward or shooting guard.
“(Nader) is a talented offensive playmaker, who has the ability to play multiple positions and has unlimited shooting range,” Montgomery said. “Abdel is an exceptionally versatile player who had the ability to score in a variety of ways. He can score off the dribble, catch-and-shoot and can score both inside an outside.”
Nader headlines Montgomery’s strong seven-man recruiting class, which also features highly-rated De La Salle forward Dre Henley. Nader and Henley are both considered to have “high major” talent. Both players likely will be counted on immediately on a team that returns just two regulars and went 9-21 last season under former coach Ricardo Patton.
Nader verbally committed to Alford and New Mexico shortly after his junior season without ever having visited the Albuquerque campus. He backed out midway through last season when it became apparent he might not qualify academically as a freshman.
He switched plans, with an eye on attending prep school for a year in Vermont and then beginning his college career in the 2012-13 season.
As Nader’s stock continued to rise, schools like Illinois, Marquette, Tennessee and Michigan State began to show interest in him as a 2012 recruit. Montgomery recruited him for the Spartans, as was NIU for the Huskies.
When Montgomery accepted the NIU job in March, Nader visited DeKalb and liked what he saw. Nader said he was especially fond of the coaching staff, which includes former New Trier and Marquette forward Todd Townsend.
Nader also noted that George Mason, Butler and Virginia Commonwealth have proven a team does not have to play in the Big Ten or Big East to make it to the big time. Nor does a player.
“(The rise of mid-majors) definitely appeals to me,” Nader said. “Also, my main goal is to play in the NBA someday and my mentality is that if I’m good enough, they’ll sign me. They don’t care what college you go to.”
Glenn Olson, who coached Nader at both Maine East and Niles North, said he believes his former player has landed in the right spot.
“I think (Nader) was impressed by the coaching staff and (Montgomery’s) background at Michigan State and his ability to coach and mold players,” Olson said. “Being close to home definitely played into it and had a lot to do with the New Mexico situation. When push came to shove and things got a little closer, it became a little tougher for him (to contemplate going out west). Another important thing is the opportunity to be a major contributor right off the bat. No doubt that was something.”
Olson added: “There are drives out to DeKalb in my family’s future.”