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Where’s that Jordan mojo, Mo? (Sumers column)

Brian Sumers

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EAST LANSING, Mich. — Do you remember the Moroccan Michael Jordan?

As a 19-year-old freshman two seasons ago, Mohamed Hachad introduced himself to Northwestern by scoring 12 points and grabbing six steals in a win over Indiana, which lost in the National Championship game the year before.

The folks from Bloomington sure were impressed.

Hachad earned his nickname with acrobatic, off-balance shots and his slash-to-the-basket style. The Hoosiers couldn’t guard him.

His moniker wasn’t original or entirely accurate (he attended high school in Canada), but I still thought he’d be NU’s next — or first — superstar.

Hachad, now in his third season, has become the fourth-leading scorer on a pretty good, but not great, Wildcats’ team. He’s averaging 7.7 points per game and scored nine in Saturday’s 87-58 loss to Michigan State.

His totals are solid, but they’re not Jordan-esque. These days, Hachad’s statistics make him more like the Ron Harper of the Cats.

And with a potential postseason berth at stake, I need to see more from Hachad.

I’m no talent evaluator, but even from the mezzanine level at the Breslin Center, I saw flashes of brilliance from the 6-foot-4 guard.

He scored seven points before halftime and swished a nifty turnaround jumper. Hachad made 4-of-5 shots and had five rebounds.

It was a sound line.

But I don’t want to see any more quiet and solid performances from Hachad. The Cats get enough of that from Vedran Vukusic, who pours in 18 points a game without fanfare.

I want to see steals and dunks and drives to the basket. I want crossover dribbles. I want Hachad to make defenses look stupid and unprepared, like he did two years ago against Indiana and has done occasionally since.

Hachad can give the Cats another option to the inside-outside threat of Mike Thompson and Vukusic. He can still be a superstar.

The guy can jump higher than any of his teammates, and he can play above the rim. The fans want to see some excitement from NU basketball, and Hachad can give it to them.

His cutting and slashing might not work within the framework of Bill Carmody’s offense, but Jitim Young’s game wasn’t suited to the Princeton style either. Carmody tweaked his system for Young, and I’ve no doubt he can do the same for Hachad.

Hachad has taken just four free throws in his last three games, a little puzzling for a player with more athleticism than anyone else on the roster.

Throughout his NU career, Young willed himself to the foul line, drawing contact on his way to the hoop. I know Hachad can do the same.

By no means has the 21-year-old fizzled as a prospect. With 56 consecutive starts and more steals than any of his teammates, Hachad is the most complete player of Carmody’s 2002 recruiting class.

But I want him to earn back his old nickname. I want Hachad — not Mike Thompson or Vedran Vukusic — to lead this team to its first NCAA Tournament appearance.

Yes, the Big Dance.

Conventional wisdom puts the Cats in the NCAAs next season, when Kentucky-transfer Bernard Cote — a high school teammate of Hachad’s — provides the final piece of the puzzle.

But I can’t wait that long. By next March, I’ll have my degree and will be toiling for some smalltown newspaper.

This is urgent.

The senior class — the students who gave Hachad his nickname two seasons ago — is counting on the reappearance of the Moroccan Michael Jordan.

Please, don’t let us down.

Assistant Sports Editor Brian Sumers is a Medill senior. He can be reached at [email protected].

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