OOH Olah! ‘Cats Make It Official With Pair of Hoops Big Men

Despite the drama surrounding Northwestern head basketball coach Bill Carmody’s return for season number 13 in Evanston, it sure feels like the urgency quotient has been cranked up a few notches. Northwestern has at least on the surface addressed the glaring void of the past few teams – the frontcourt. After a paperwork issue prevented Alex Olah, a 2012 6-10 center (NU lists him as a 7-footer, but reports vary) recruit from signing on basketball signing day (with fellow recruits Kale Abrahamson and Sanjay Lumpkin), he became officially a Wildcat today according to NUSports.com.  I’ve heard great things from insiders who have snuck a peak of him playing in Evanston and terms like “instant impact” have been utterred. Olah, a native Romanian, played his high school ball at Traders Christian Point Academy in Indiana and averaged 18 points and 13 rebounds per game. Technically, as NUSports.com points out, the freshman (eligibility-wise) class also includes highly touted point guard Tre Demps (sat out 2011-12 due to surgery/injury) and promising big man Michael Turner (redshirt).  Throw in TCU transfer Nikola Cerina, a 6-9 beast who Carmody claims is the best athlete on the team and you have quite a potential depth chart after suffering through a razor thin season this year.

Then, you add fellow big man Jared Swopshire, a 6-8 transfer from Louisville, who has one year of eligibility left (and can play instantly since he graduated from Louisville) and you even have some seniority in the frontcourt. Swopshire is another NU transfer import from a high profile program (we’ve done this with Kentucky and Duke in the past) and Rick Pitino had the writing on the wall as his minutes decreased significantly with each passing year and each new, better crop of talent that helped lead the Cardinals to the Final Four in 2012. Swopshire is an athletic talent though and though he averaged just 3.8 ppg, he did play in 39 games this season. Swopshire shined in 2009-2010 and showed flashes of big games and started 20 games. The turning point in his development came in the 2010-2011 season which he missed due to injury.

If you look at the legitimate depth on the team you have the following players to choose from which will seem like a luxury based on recent seasons. Obviously there is no John Shurna (yet) in this group so it will be a team effort to pick up the scoring slack. Make no doubt about it, this is Drew Crawford’s year to take his game to another level for us to make the dance.

Potential 2012-2013 Starting Lineup:

  • PG David Sobolewski
  • SG JerShon Cobb
  • G/F Drew Crawford
  • PF Jared Swopshire OR Nikola Cerina
  • C Alex Olah

Bench:

  • Jared Swopshire OR Nikola Cerina
  • Reggie Hearn
  • Michael Turner
  • Alex Marcotullio
  • Tre Demps
  • Kale Abrahamson
  • Sanjay Lumpkin

Yup, time to get sucked back in once again. NUSports.com offers up the complete bios here.

  • TF

    Jershon would start at SG, I would think, leaving Reggie as a perfect 6th man.

    • rararawrgocats

      Agreed… my best guess at a depth chart is:

      1. Sobolewski/Demps/Jimenez
      2. Cobb/Marcotullio
      3. Crawford/Hearn/Montgomery
      4. Swopshire/Turner
      5. Cerina/Olah

      With Hearn the 6th man filling in for Cobb and Crawford. I’m assuming Abrahamson and Lumpkin won’t get much (if any) playing time and may even get red shirts, but I could be wrong.

      • CATSFAN02

        I think you’re right about this line-up. It’s pretty unusual (unless you’re Kentucky) to have freshmen big men come in and play significant minutes, let alone dominate. Hopefully Cerina is the anti-Luka / Davide and we can confidently put him out there for 25-30 minutes. Then Olah can learn the ropes with 10-15 minutes per game.

        You wouldn’t know it from the 10 years of poor center play but the princeton offense is hugely more effective with solid post play (what offense isn’t!). The 10-15 foot jump shot just inside the free throw line was wide open all year last year – but only shurna could hit it – this opened up the offense but he also had to play out of position at the 4 from a rebounding and defense perspective (which weren’t his strengths to begin with). If Swop and Cerina can run some nice high- low game Marco will be seeing wide open threes all day.

        However, I think we have a lot of people who provide flexibility on the offensive end. That’s never really been the issue. For me, the lineups are about what provides us the ability to play an effective man to man or even a non-gimmicky (i.e. not 1-3-1) zone.

        This is why I’d be surpised if they redshirted Abrahamson. Marcotullio provides hustle and leadership but is limited in man-to-man, though perhaps a little better in a 2-3. If Cobb/Crawford can improve their handle even a little (AND Cobb develops a consistent 3 pt. shot – both big ifs I know) I think you could see Cobb/Crawford/Abrahamson in the front court sometimes against more athletic teams. With that length (+6-5) and athleticism you start to see interesting zone and/or man-to-man matchups. You could put hearn into the mix here too. Additionally, with Hearn, Marco, and Crawford Srs. next year I think Carmody will want to get Abrahamson some minutes as a freshman so he can be a leader the following year.

        There are a lot of “ifs” and assumptions involved in prognosticating but at the very least it’s fun to imagine the different scenarios. It’s the first time EVER in my fandom that I can remember worrying about where minutes will come from for players who’ve proven to be effective in right scenarios but struggled in others. Like Sobo against the more perimeter oriented PGs in the league and Marco against teams where the 1-3-1 zone is effective. Carmody’s coaching will really be tested in a new dimension – how will he utilize / minimize his players’ strengths / weaknesses for best matchups game in game out, rather than just manage for fatigue.

  • Chasmo

    Why does LTP think Olah will be the starting center next year over Cerina who has spent a year practicing with the team?
    Olah played for Romania in the U-18 B Tournment — not against the good players in the A Division — and he played against weak competition in a Christian school league in Indiana.
    That is not the same as playing against Conference USA and Big Ten level talent for three years as Cerina has.
    Carmody called Cerina the “best athlete on the team” and Carmody isn’t usually given to hyperbole.
    NU’s starting lineup could be very athletic next year with Demps, Cobb, Crawford, Swopshire, and Cerina in the starting lineup — it could be the most athletic starting 5 in history.
    With Cerina and Swopshire in the lineup, perhaps NU will opponents’ second-shot opportunities, making it not necessary to replace all of Shurna’s 20 ppg next year as it will hold opponents to fewer points.
    The NCAA tournament still seems like a reach but yet another NIT team seems certain thanks to the deepest and most athletic team in history.

  • Make Some Noyes

    If you watch the highlights of Olah on youtube it’s hard to get excited. He’s definitely tall, but seems slow and pretty awkward around the rim. His lack of quality post moves is never exposed though, as he is so much taller than his competition he consistently gets good looks. I think he’s going to have a tough time (at least initially) in college.

    However, I am really excited about Kale Abrahamson. From his highlights he seems to have a knack for getting to the rim, and from what I’ve read he has good range (although from highlights he has a bit of an awkward shot with a high arc; unusual form never stopped Shurna though).

    I think a better lineup would be:
    PG – Sobolewski
    SG – Hearn
    SF – Crawford
    PF – Abrahamson
    C – Cerina

    • db

      Abrahmason isnt a power forward. We finally have a couple of them on the team, we dont need an undersized freshman to get manhandled down there.

      Also, Cobb is a top 2 player, might want to find some room for him if healthy.

      • Make Some Noyes

        I agree on the Jershon point, I should have put him in as SG. If he can stay healthy and build off his strong end to the season, he could be a very good player next year.

        I realize Kale is not a PF, but do you really just want to throw Olah or a similarly untalently big man out there? We’ve seen what happened when we started Nikola Baran, Kyle Rowley, and Luka Mirkovic. We were most successful when we benched those players and went to smaller lineups. We can’t just put height out there for the sake of height. We need to put our most talented players on the floor.

        • Lake The Posts

          I’m a meathead and omitted Cobb! He’s a starter. Remember, Tre Demps was more highly touted coming in than Sobo at point. I have Olah in the lineup as he’s a true center where Cerina could play both the 4 or 5.

        • db

          Swopshire is a 4, he’ll play before the freshman. Someone is going to redshirt too if everyone is healthy.

  • Jim

    WLAX: NU 17 NOTRE DAME 7

    Cats now 15-1.
    Regular Season finale against Virgina Saturday at noon at Lakeside Field.

    • Smolmania

      Another solid effort (hard to not take this team for granted). Can’t make the home finale — golf in the rain (ugh), but looking forward to home tournament game. . .

    • cece

      a win against N.D……always good.

  • cece

    meanwhile, football playoffs on their way to reality? and not with the plan some (us?) favor, home playoffs.

  • PDXCat

    Am I missing something? Did Cobb transfer or something? Why don’t these projected starting 5’s include him?

    • reader

      I was just wondering the same thing as I read this – Cobb should be listed in the starting 5.

      • Lake The Posts

        See above, just dumb oversight on my part!

  • db

    yes…i think cobb should crack our 12 deep…

    honestly our best 5 might have sobo on the bench if he plays like he did in March. Hearn can take care of the ball just fine. that team is pretty big – you’ll certainly see it for stretches to keep sobo fresh. Even cobb at the point if he improves his handle.

    olah isnt going to start unless he really dominates early in practice. swopshire and cerina are D1 players. No idea if they will be any good, but D1 nonetheless.

    my question is can swopshire play the 3 and get his own shot. If he can you could have all sorts of fun with a big cobb/crawford back court.

    The best news of all is that Carmody cant spoil Crawford’s senior year by making him play out of position like he had to with Shurna. if the louisville kid doesnt come and olah stunk or went elsewhere crawford was playing the 4 which would have been a shame and counter productive to his nba stock. glad this got fixed.

    • Chadnudj

      “honestly our best 5 might have sobo on the bench….”

      Not sure if I agree with you, but it’s certainly a fair point — both Hearn and Cobb and arguably Demps (pre-season folks thought he’d be our PG) could handle the point to give Sobo rest and/or improve our defense on the court.

      I, for one, am excited to have 5 true/redshirt freshmen on the roster (Demps, Turner, Abrahamson, Lumpkin, Olah) for years in the future (and hold off on your “we must win now!” stuff…I agree, but it never hurts to have guys together in your system that can grow up/improve together). And our depth has really been addressed in a STRONG fashion by Carmody and the coaching staff. The fact that (health permitting) we could go 10-11 deep probably would have won us 2, 3, or 4 more games last season…enough to make the Tourney.

  • MossReport

    Cobb? He sure played like a healthy person at the end of the year and I have not seen any transfer info. I have to say that looking at this potential lineup, that I am really excited. Of course, we have never seen half of these players on the purple hardwood. But for the first time that I can remember going back to 1991 in memories, there is the potential to have a team that will play 8 to 10 deep with talented players. Now we just need to hope that Carmody remembers how to substitute. All hail BTN, BTN2Go, and 720 WGN I Phone app for fueling my hoops addiction last year.

    Go Cats!

  • Nubobby95

    Cobb? Marcolulio? Both should see Top 6 or 7 minutes. Can any of these guys box out and/ or score in the post? Big men dominated the Final Four this year.

    • Lake The Posts

      No way, Cobb is a starter, Marcotullio is likely a 10 minute per game guy/situational 3-point guy.

  • HintonforElway

    Obviously, we’ll have to wait til the fall to understand who is ready to step into the rotation (as well as how effectively — or not — Carmody utilizes this new depth), but it is exciting to have so many seemingly legitimate talents on the same roster for this program.

    Even our “best” teams have suffered from a stark fall-off from the top 2-3 guys (going way back, Aaron, Goode, Stack and filler; Jitim, Hachad, Vedran and TJ Parker all logged 37+ minutes/game in B10 play and had little backing them on the bench).

    If Cobb continues his late season form (a highly reasonable assumption if healthy) and Sobo takes another step with a year of growth and perhaps 6-7 minutes/night on the bench, then you don’t even need all of the 7 newcomers (including the 3 on the bench last year) to step in.

    As long as the 20-something Shropshire and Cerina perform to a reasonable level, you only need 2 of the 5 FR (incl RS FR) to contribute meaningfully to have our strongest 9 deep in program history. My prediction is worth the letters I am typing, but I will throw it out there: I see Demps and Abrahamson stepping up in meaningful roles, with Turner and Olah providing depth minutes at 4 and 5.

    Finally, in regards Marco. Lots of people want to slide him pretty far down the two deep, and there are certainly reasons to slot him for a more situational role (there are flaws in his game for sure). That said, he is the one guy who brings Craig Moore-like fire onto the court, and I think that quality outweighs any issues with his streaky shooting and silly fouls (and earn him that 6th man role).

  • jimgocats93

    What a great discussion – what to do with all the talent?
    When has that ever happened?
    I just hope someone tells BC 5x’s a day how successful Dean Smith was play 8 – 10 guys a game!

    Gocatsgo!

  • Dryan

    great point, and why i actually think there is not really an \or else\ urgency to next year. The urgency is there for sure, but I think we all need to get used to coach carmody staying on as long as he wants to. he’s addressed the two issues that this board has consistently hammered at, lack of depth, and lack of front line size.

    while these don’t let him off the hook for poor coaching choices at the end of key games, i think when he looked up and down the bench at the end of this last season and couldn’t find options or energy his hands were a bit tied – that makes marginal tactics look even worse when they don’t work. the bad endings were the residue of poor roster planning, poor recruiting and the wash out of a couple of bigs over the last couple of years – he seems to have really addressed this stuff, and found a likely shurna replacement too…

    i’m excited about this incoming group, and will predict that olah red shirts but that abrahamson will get big minutes as the new john shurna – if you watch his clips the kid can fill it up from 3 point land.

  • Chasmo

    Things to consider:
    1. Carmody started Demps at PG in the 2011-12 season opener.
    2. Cobb was NU’s second best player in the post season.
    3. Abrahamson is a Top 150 recruit and NU don’t redshirt Top 150 recruits especially with NU needing to replace Shurna’s points.
    4. Carmody is not required to play three of his starters 35+ minutes a game (even though it has seemed that way) and so if he plays all starters 30 or fewer minutes each, there is plenty PT to go around.
    5. Carmody is aware his seat is still rather hot and has to continue to win to keep his job; therefore, every incoming frosh who is capable of making a contribution will do so even if that kid ends up only averaging just a few minutes a game over the course of the season. Carmody can’t afford to redshirt anyone unless he’s as unready to play as Turner was.

    • CATSFAN02

      Well said. And if I may add one more…

      6. Injuries are a part of sports and obviously unpredictable (Think Vukusic shoulder a long time ago, Cobb hip, Shurna ankle/head, etc.). If you redshirt Olah we’re one Cerina sprained ankle away from starting Swopshire at the 5. Depth is about managing minutes but also mitigating risks…

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