Northwestern’s future is on the roster already
Northwestern is expected to release four-star point Jaren Sina from his Letter of Intent today as he requested, re-opening his recruiting after Bill Carmody had secured his commitment back in July and signed him in November. Sina was considered perhaps the best recruit that Carmody had ever brought in and many pegged him as the future of the program.
Obviously now, with no coach and a star player re-opening his recruitment (with Northwestern’s blessing and Sina’s father told Teddy Greenstein of the Chicago Tribune that he would continue to consider Northwestern and he was thankful that they let his son re-open his recruiting) there is very little that is certain about Northwestern’s basketball future.
Except, that is, the players currently on the roster.
Whoever Northwestern’s new coach is will have to quickly move to gain the faith of NU’s two incoming recruits — both seemingly on the fence now although only Sina has requested and received the release from his LOI — and build belief from Drew Crawford to come back and play after he has already graduated. What the 2014 basketball team will look like is a complete mystery right now.
What we do know is that JerShon Cobb, Alex Olah, Dave Sobolewski (I think) will be on the roster and will be relied on to play a key role in the transition from Bill Carmody’s Princeton Offense to . . . whatever comes next with the new coach.
It will take a while for the new coach to bring in the players that fit his system and there will be growing pains as the team and program makes transition. The new coach will have to hit the ground running recruiting to restock the program and make the transition easier. What could help more though is players already on the roster stepping up and adjusting. The new coach will have to hit the ground running on developing the players on the roster as well.
When all was said and done at the end of the year, Northwestern was a young team. Jared Swopshire and Drew Crawford were injured and Alex Marcotullio and Reggie Hearn were the only seniors on the roster. In that starting lineup on the final day were sophomore guard Dave Sobolewski, freshman forward Kale Abrahamson and freshman center Alex Olah. Along with rising junior JerShon Cobb (who may get an extra year of eligibility), this young nucleus is going to be be the building blocks for the new coach.
If there was one area that Bill Carmody struggled immensely it was developing talent. If a player was not a contributor his freshman year, it was unlikely he was going to contribute the rest of his career. That was the unfortunate part of Carmody’s tenure and why the team struggled to build depth.
With a new coach coming in, he will have to build confidence in the returning players and put them in roles to succeed.
That will go double for freshmen like Alex Olah and Mike Turner. Both had their ups and downs in their freshmen seasons, providing plenty of frustration. Also, undoubtedly, the center position is the one area that has held Northwestern back as much as any other. If Northwestern is going to have any kind of success under a new coach, it will come because the new coach is able to get more out of these two still young big men.
There are signs that a coach can do that.
Alex Olah started just about every game this season and had a mixed bag season, averaging 6.1 points per game and 4.1 rebounds per game while shooting 41 percent from the floor. It was frustrating watching him play at times as it seemed his confidence would go up and down. Consistency did not seem part of his game. That is OK as a freshman . . . but probably not OK when you are relying on that freshman to be your team’s starting center.
However, Olah showed improvement in the last few games of the season on the offensive end. He closed the year out with a 10-point game against Michigan State and a 12-point game against Iowa. The bigger thing was the improvement in his rebounding. He grabbed at least five rebounds in three of the final four games of the season.
Modest improvement for sure, but improvement nonetheless. Confidence will have to build off those two games for Olah.
Similarly, Turner will have to latch onto his positive moments and try to build off them this offseason. And when the new coach arrives, he will have to build their confidence up too and put them in positions to succeed. A poor year next year may make it difficult for them to bounce back.
There is a lot of work ahead. The biggest task for Northwestern after finding the new coach might not simply be hitting the ground running with recruiting. The Cats’ new coach also has to rebuild the confidence of several young player on the roster now that will play a key role in the early part of his tenure and set the foundation for the building ahead.