As preseason practice opens up, the Wildcats are focused on preparing for their regular season opener against Stanford on Nov. 15.
But they are also holding a special place for sophomore Kevin Coble, their teammate who left the team in the middle of last week to be with his mother, who is undergoing treatment for breast cancer in Phoenix.
“Any time one of our own is feeling terrible and having problems family-wise, we all want to help him out and see what we can do to support him,” junior guard Craig Moore said.
Northwestern began practice on Friday without Coble, who led the team in scoring (13.4 points per game) and rebounding (5.2 rebounds per game) last year.
“It’s not the same as an injury, of course, but once you’re on the practice floor it takes that shape,” coach Bill Carmody said. “It’ll be an opportunity for someone else to step up, and we’ll go from there.”
In 2005, it was Moore. Then it was Coble.
This year, it will be up to Michael Thompson and Mike Capocci to keep up the Cats’ string of true freshmen playing a significant role.
“They’re both capable. They’re both playing very well the first four practices,” he said. “It seems to me they’ll be capable of contributing in a meaningful way.”
Aside from adjusting to the speed and physicality of the college game, Thompson and Capocci both have to acclimate themselves to Carmody’s Princeton offense, which puts a premium on passing around the perimeter and cuts to the basket.
Thompson said his team ran a couple of slowdown plays in high school, but he is still in the process of learning the offense.
“I’ve been working hard in practice trying to show the coaches what I’m capable of doing,” Thompson said. “If it carries over to the games, hopefully I can be the person that helps us win more games.”
finding another doyle
There might have been more talented players to come through NU’s basketball program, but none had quite the varied skill set of forward Tim Doyle, who ran out of eligibility after last season.
He could score. He could pass. He could sky-hook. He could mix it up down low.
Carmody said he will look to his older players, like Moore, junior Sterling Williams and senior Jason Okrzesik, to fill the void left by Doyle.
“They have their own type of games and their own personalities, so you just sort of let that develop as it would,” Carmody said. “No one’s going to be like Doyle. That’s for sure.”
Reach David Morrison at [email protected]