It hit me on Saturday as David Sobolewski drained his third first half three and was desperately trying to spark his teammates with his flush-faced exhortations. The ESPNU announcer was gushing again and again about Sobo and how easy it is to see how much he puts in to every single possession. I started thinking about how much I really admire watching Sobo play. He squeezes every ounce of talent out of his body and then, when you think he’s got nothing left, he’ll hurl himself on the floor between the bigs for another “how did he get that lay-up?” and he’ll quickly scrape himself off the floor to get back on defense. While you can knock his free throw shooting, it’s about the only downside on a guy who has established himself as the leader of this team as only a sophomore. He’s a gamer and as a fan, I just love having him on our team.
As it became clear we were going to lose to Nebraska, my mind started projecting ahead to the future and what Sobo might be like by his senior season. However, my mental diversions became stronger, distracting me from the pangs of disappointment against a team we were favored to beat and I started thinking about the fact that, barring injury and/or a loss of the starting role to incoming superrecruit, PG Jaren Sina, Sobo has the chance to cap off an 8-year run where two point guards ran the show. Just like Sobo, Michael “Juice” Thompson was given the rock as a true freshman and said “go get ’em”. Thompson became the heart and soul of our team, despite the fact he played alongside the incredibly likable John Shurna, our school’s alltime leading scorer. Thompson holds the 1 and 2 spots for alltime minutes played in a season. Sobo is in the top ten in single season minutes as well, which is insane considering he was a true frosh last year.
The thought process led me back to Jitim Young, one of the all-time favorite Wildcats for many fans, and yet another guy who manned the point for four years under Carmody (2000-2004). I think the word “warrior” was used more in association with the Gordon Tech graduate than any other player to ever don a ‘Cats basketball jersey. Young and Thompson both averaged about 13 ppg for their careers and both are NU alltime top ten scorers (Young 9th with 1,521 points and Juice 4th with 1,689 points). Both had pretty big learning curves as freshmen, as did Sobo, with Juice suffering through a 1-17 conference slate in 2007-2008, before being part of three straight NIT teams and really ramping up the program.
There were a few TJ Parker and Mohamed Hachad years bridging Jitim and Juice, a nd candidly, I liked those guys as well. However, the potential of 12 years in a 15 year span of just three point guards, and gutsy, heart and soul of the team guys, is something quite remarkable.
Of course, my mind kept wandering, and with that clunker of a game on Saturday, you can understand how much time it had to wander. I thought about the point guards of the football team – quarterbacks. Say what you want about the two-man team of Kain and Trevor, we all agree they are both winners and great on-field performers in the leadership by default position. Guys look up to them. They make things happen and as fans, they’re both very likable as well. You think about this 10-win season and start thinking back and while not as extreme as NU basketball, the consistency of top tier QB play since the start of this century has been nothing short of remarkable. Kustok, Basanez, Bacher, Kafka, Persa and now Kain and Trevor. Consider the high level play of that group just mentioned. Whether you measure it by B1G championships (Kustok), one of only three B1G QBs to surpass 10,000 career yards (Baz set 32 NU records and at the time he graduated was #2 alltime in B1G passing history), well, you get the idea. With the exception of Basanez, who go the Young/Juice/Sobo treatment, and promptly started all four years, the rest of the QBs we’re discussing had shorter stints, usually started when the starter got injured. When you think about our offense and how many guys have had incredible seasons, despite having maybe only one or two years to run the thing, it is truly remarkable.
If you take our QBs since 2000 (yes, I know Zak played in ’99), I’d put them against ANY program in the B1G during that time. It’d be a great spreadsheet to breakdown. By passing yards, by completion percentage, by TD/INT ratio, you name it and I think we’d be right at the top. The only column we wouldn’t be would be total wins, but a few more seasons like last year and we’ll be up there in that category as well. All you need to do is look at a Minnesota or Iowa or Purdue or even Wisconsin and say for the entire span, which program would you trade the entire QB lot for? I don’t think there is a program I would do that with, seriously. You can knock us on our struggles at RB in recent years, challenges in our secondary or any other unit that has had ups and downs, but not QB. It’s one of the most underappreciated elements of the past decade plus. Here’s to it continuing for years to come….yes, that means you, Matt Alviti.