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Double dose of homecoming for Northern State's Phillips, Moni

Phillips was the head coach of NDSU men's basketball for seven years, while Moni is a West Fargo Sheyenne grad.

PHOTO: Saul Phillips and Jacksen Moni
Northern State's Saul Phillips (left) surveys practice with freshman Jacksen Moni.

MOORHEAD -- Returning to his old stomping grounds never gets old for Saul Phillips.

The former North Dakota State men's basketball coach returns to Fargo-Moorhead on Tuesday when his Northern State team faces MSU-Moorhead.

"My UND fan neighbors sit right behind our bench today and they can cheer for me now," Phillips said. "They did cheer for me but not really. Now they can just flat out cheer for me."

When he's back in town, usually his players don't know much about the memories he talks about. It's been since 2014 since he coached a local player.

"It would've been AJ Jacobson at NDSU. It's been a while," Phillips said.

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This year, that will be different.

Sheyenne alum Jacksen Moni remembers going to Bison basketball camps when Phillips was still in town.

"He made a drill called Thunder Says, kind of like Simon says. It was probably my favorite drill," Moni remembered. "He asked me if I remembered that drill actually earlier this year."

Moni has made an immediate impact at Northern State. The freshman has played as many as 35 minutes in games and averaging 11.3 points per game.

They talk a lot of basketball, but they also reminisce on the things they have in common back in Fargo-Moorhead.

"Restaurants that we liked, people that we knew. We haven't even discovered all the overlapping parts yet," Phillips said. "Something will come up and we'll be like, 'Wait you did that too?'"

"He'll make comments about when he was coach at NDSU and I was in like first, second grade," Moni said. "We just kind of bond closer and it translates on the court."

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Saul's had the homecoming treatment before in town, while it's the first time for Jacksen.

It will be another memory in Fargo-Moorhead they'll share together.

"When I moved from here to Ohio, I would always remember those things I just didn't know I'd be actively involved in those things again, so it's been great," Phillips said.

"It just allows me to go up there and talk to him about anything and know that he can relate to me," Moni said.

Related Topics: BASKETBALL
Zach Staton joined WDAY as a sports reporter in 2018. He grew up in Salem, Virginia loving any sport he could play or watch. Staton graduated from Bridgewater College with a degree in Communication Studies before getting his Master's in Broadcast and Digital Journalism with a Sports Communication Emphasis from Syracuse University.
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