(Photo: Courtesy / Hillsdale Col­legian)

When the Hillsdale College men’s bas­ketball team takes the court for its first game of the season on Nov. 3, it will face Michigan State Uni­versity, one of the top Division I pro­grams in the country, at the Breslin Center in East Lansing.

Senior guards Stedman Lowry and Ryan Bad­owski and junior point guard Nate Neveau will lead the team as the cap­tains, but they are not the only Chargers who enter the season with ample expe­rience. Junior for­wards Jack Cordes, Gordon Behr, and Nick Czarnowski, along with junior guard Har­rison Niego, also bring veteran lead­ership to the team.

Although the contest with Michigan State is an exhi­bition game and doesn’t con­tribute to the team’s overall record, head coach John Tharp said he sees it as a unique expe­rience and learning oppor­tunity for his players.

He said playing such an ath­letic team, with at least four NBA prospects on the roster, will cer­tainly show where the team needs to improve.

“There are things that they do with the ath­letes they have and the length that they have and we are going to be as prin­ciple-ori­ented as we pos­sibly can, but there will be times where it won’t matter,” he said.

After a sluggish per­for­mance by Michigan State against Ferris State, who, on Oct. 26, battled against the Spartans and tied at 60-all with seven minutes remaining in the game, sophomore center Matt Fisher thinks they have a shot.

“We are gonna have to scratch and claw,” Fisher said. “It is gonna be a battle.”

But senior guard Stedman Lowry, who said he is excited to play against Spartan forward Miles Bridges, said he thinks Spartan coach Tom Izzo wanted to light a fire under some of his players.

“I feel like Izzo likes to keep these games kind of close so he can chew the guys out,” he said. “That’s just what it seems like.”

As for the NBA talent the Chargers will face, including freshman center Jaron Jackson, sophomore forward Miles Bridges, and sophomore forward Nick Ward, Fisher said playing against that quality of player isn’t actually all that new.

“You see a lot of these guys at AAU tour­na­ments when you are younger,” he said. “It is funny to see them now and realize that they will be making mil­lions in a couple of months.”

Looking beyond Friday’s exhi­bition game, the Chargers also face the chal­lenge of being the newest team in the G‑MAC.

“Since the G‑MAC started, bas­ketball has been its sig­nature sport,” Tharp said.

With Findlay Uni­versity, No. 20 in the NCAA’s Division II pre­season rankings, moving with Hillsdale from the GLIAC and Ken­tucky Wes­leyan Uni­versity, No. 24, the Chargers have tough rivals both new and old rivals in the con­ference.

Joining Hillsdale College in the move this year to the G‑MAC are Findlay Uni­versity, Lake Erie Uni­versity, Ohio Dominican Uni­versity, and Walsh College.

Though the change to the G‑MAC is a big adjustment for the program, Tharp thinks it’s for the best.

“There was a part of me that loved the chal­lenge of the GLIAC, you know, small aca­demic insti­tution playing against the gigantic state schools. Just loved that,” he said. “When the change came, I had mixed emo­tions. But I knew it was a good change for us, to be with like-minded schools.”

Tharp also expressed his excitement at a dif­ferent brand of bas­ketball that the Chargers are bringing to Dawn Tib­betts Potter Arena and other arenas in the midwest. He said that he hopes the Chargers will be better defen­sively.

Tharp also said that the team is going to play more up-tempo bas­ketball. Lowry agrees.

“We will be able to play pretty fast this year. We have big guys who run the floor really well and Nate Neveu and Dylan Lowry are both good at pushing the ball,” he said.

The Chargers also have two freshman for­wards, Tavon Brown and Austen Yarian, who may con­tribute this season.

“They have tremendous upside,” Tharp said. “Each practice you have moments where you say, ‘whoa, these guys are really tal­ented,’ and then they have moments where you realize that they are freshmen and they don’t know what they’re doing.”

The Chargers face the Spartans at the Breslin Center on Friday at 7 p.m. Tickets start at $6 and can be pur­chased online.