NCC Men’s Basketball Brothers

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NCC Men’s Basketball Brothers: Senior Matt Helwig and sophomore brother Ethan Helwig are ready to help the Cardinals pick up where they left off two years ago

Still Feeling the Disappointment

Pandemic related cancellations had crueler timing for North Central men’s basketball than most teams. Just days before a game in the Sweet 16 of the 2019 NCAA Division 3 Men’s Basketball Tournament, all remaining games were canceled. An abbreviated 10 game schedule last year, though it provided experience, did little to make up for the dream of a championship being taken away.

Todd Raridon: It was a disappointing season last year just to have the ten games. It’s something that I think it helped playing something, at some points I though we weren’t gonna play any games. So we were fortunate we had at least ten games. But I felt bad for our seniors who graduated, because the year before their year got cut off, their junior year. And then their senior year was only ten games with no tournament so it was disappointing all the way around. But I think it helped some of our younger kids from this year coming back that they did get a little bit of experience. You’d like to have seen them have more though

Matt Helwig: We still have a couple guys from that team so for me personally it crushed me and last year was kind of a weird year. Getting back to it this year with a normal schedule, normal practice, normal lifting program in the fall to get better. It’s really pushed me to try and lead this team and get everybody on the right page, try to get back to where we were two years ago.

A Familiar Face and Name

One of the new faces being added to a largely experienced group is a familiar name: Ethan Helwig, Matt’s young brother, a transfer from Division 2 Merrimack College. His path to North Central wasn’t a straight one, but in hindsight it only seems natural that this is where he eventually ended up.

Ethan Helwig: Well my dad went here when he was in college, and one of my best friend’s dad is the football coach here, and I grew up around this school my whole life so it was pretty easy to choose to pick here. It was set in stone since halfway through my season last year at my old school that I was gonna come here. College basketball is faster, don’t get me wrong, but you have to play slower through your own mind so you have make decisions faster but it’s really not a faster paced game that’s what I learned from my old school and that’s what I’m gonna bring here and take what I have in the moment and just see where I can go from there.

Ethan certainly brings a high level of talent and skill to the Cardinals roster, but the built in relationship he has with Matt makes his addition special and is an added bonus. Raridon also hopes that having an older brother around will help Ethan settle in quick and feel more a part of the team from day one.

TR: From my standpoint it’s been fun. I think there’s some brotherly love, there’s probably been some competition there. And, you know, Matt’s been in our program for the last couple years so he knows what to expect, he’s trying to help Ethan along as best he can and he’s doing a great job of it. We need him to continue to get him on the same page as everybody else. They played growing up together so they know each other very well. It’s now putting Ethan in with the other three guys.

MH: I have a little bit of a different way of teaching him personally, because I can yell at him a little bit more and he can take it. I kind of get on him a little bit more than anybody else so he can take it.

EH: Well this is my first time playing with him ever. So it’s good change of speed, he’s helping me with everything so it’s just fun to play with him. We’re brothers, we get mad at each other but when we’re on the court we just have that flow together so we know where each other’s at all the time.

Returning to Glory

Despite feeling far removed from their 2019 tournament run, the team’s goals are no less lofty. Ethan wants to do everything he can to help the team pick up where the left off, and Matt knows just how hard they and the rest of their teammates will have to work to make that happen.

EH: Just to start during the season and contribute towards the team throughout the whole thing. And I think a team goal for us is of course to win the conference tournament and get our I think it’s sixth straight NCAA Tournament appearance and hopefully go on and win the national championship this year, I think we have a good squad to do it. 

MH: Our goal is to win the conference again. Two years ago we won it, didn’t win the conference tournament which was unfortunate but, again, it’s a tough conference and we’re going to have to come out every night and try to win the conference and make a deep run in the tournament. We’ve been to the tournament five or six straight years so we’re looking to extend on that.

TR: Well our expectations and goals are always high. I expect a lot out of our program. It’s a tribute to the kids that have been in our program in the past….it’s something that we want our kids, when they come into this we sell this program. You come in, you have to work hard, but the end result and the rewards at the end of the year are what we’re looking for and we hope that carries over with this group.

This story appeared in the November 4th, 2021 episode of The Red Zone