Great Dane: Carmody nets 1st recruit

Glenn Kasses

By Glenn Kasses

The Summer Northwestern

After failing to reel in any recruits during the late signing period this spring, Bill Carmody and his Northwestern basketball assistants promised that their search for talent was not over.

Europe, the coaches said, had plenty of talented athletes who could contribute for the Wildcats.

After two months, it appears that their confidence has been justified. Thomas Soltau, a lanky 6-foot-10 small forward, confirmed Wednesday from his home in Roskilde, Denmark, that he has told Carmody he will be a part of the team when practices begin this fall.

Soltau can’t sign a letter of intent since the signing period has passed, so he will be officially on the team only when he arrives in September to register for classes. As a result, no one associated with NU can comment on Soltau’s commitment.

But rest assured: Soltau said he fully intends to be in Evanston for the start of practices.

“(NU) was big and great and I liked everything there,” Soltau said – in English – of his June visit to campus, which convinced him that the Cats were his team. “I talked to the coaches and also looked the school up on the Internet.”

Soltau said he committed to the program about a month ago.

To most fans, Soltau remains a mystery. And his path to NU has been anything but normal for college basketball recruits. Soltau had given his commitment to Phil Martelli and St. Joseph’s in early June.

But while he was visiting the Philadelphia campus shortly thereafter, Martelli received word that another more valued recruit had qualified academically, leaving the Hawks without a scholarship for Soltau.

Two weeks later, the Cats clinched the Dane’s services.

“I think Northwestern is getting a real good player,” said Matt Brady, Martelli’s top assistant at St. Joseph’s. “He’s got very good three-point range. He’s a guy that wants to do well.”

Soltau may be 6-foot-10, but that doesn’t mean he’ll be manning the middle for the undersized Cats. Weighing in at a rail-thin 215 pounds, Soltau lacks the bulk to play in the paint in the brutish Big Ten.

“I’m not that strong, it’s a big weakness for me,” Soltau said. “I’ll have to gain a lot of weight.

“I’m a pretty good post player, but I’m not as good at the banging.”

Soltau did say he has countered that problem thus far by learning how to use his own quickness and agility to get plenty of rebounds and assists. He’ll now become the Cats second tallest player, behind 6-foot-11 Aaron Jennings, and the only other Cats player taller than 6-foot-8.

But his frame will probably prevent him from being effective in the middle, especially since Soltau said he prefers to play facing the basket.

Brady agreed that Soltau would need 10 more pounds to be a force on both ends but gushed about Soltau’s offensive capabilities, saying the 18-year-old would probably end up fitting perfectly in Carmody’s scheme. Outside shooting and passing – European players are widely regarded for their offensive acumen – are at a premium in the “Princeton offense” Carmody brought to Evanston.

“He clearly has more offensive small forward skills than offensive power forward skills,” Brady said. “At the small forward position he can bring the ball up the floor at the highest level.

“Within the system that Coach Carmody uses, he has a chance to be an outstanding player.”

Soltau got a chance to play with some of his future teammates while he was on campus, and said both the offense and the players made him very comfortable.

“The system was very free and open, and that’s good for me,” he said. “The guys, they were really nice. After that, I knew it was the right place.”

NU still has three scholarships available, which can be offered to players until the beginning of the school year. If they go unused, then they could be used in addition to the two or three that will become available next year.

But for now, Carmody has his first recruit at NU and an 11th body – albeit a thin one – to use in the upcoming season.

“If he can ever find a way to defend power forwards in your league – and I’m not so sure that he can do that – he’ll create mismatches,” Brady said. “(But) the things he does well, he does very well.”