Men’s Basketball: Keys to success for the upcoming season

Matt Forman

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KEYS TO SUCCESS

1) A season ago, Northwestern was killed on the glass. The Wildcats finished with a rebounding margin of minus-10.8, one of only two teams with a negative margin in the Big Ten. They averaged only 24 rebounds per game, whereas the next closest team averaged 33.7 per contest.

“Last year, I’d go down the bench, and I’d look at my assistants and go, ‘Get him the heck out of there,'” coach Bill Carmody said, shaking his head. “Now I think I can look down and get somebody else in there.”

Junior Kevin Coble averaged 5.4 boards per game to lead the Cats. Carmody said Coble is the team’s third best rebounder, but the team’s lack of size led to his increased production. With that in mind, Carmody recruited four freshmen standing at six-foot-eight or taller.

“It will be good,” Coble said of the team’s increase in size. “It will move everybody to more of their traditional positions, where they should be playing. It was hard on us last year, but this should help us a lot.”

2) The Cats won just one Big Ten game a season ago. After a season-ending 55-52 loss to Minnesota, the team set out to improve upon last year’s disappointing campaign.

“We focused on a lot of lifting, weight training,” Coble said. “That’s something that’s been a deficiency for us, and I think we really improved upon that.”

Senior guard Craig Moore said that everyone, including himself, has been eating healthier which helped aid his marked turnaround last season from his sluggish sophomore season.

Moore added that the team played an increased number of pickup games, aiding the team bonding process.

With its increased dedication and preparation, the team can improve upon last year’s 8-22 record.

“Absolutely, this is the most confident I’ve been heading into a season,” Coble said. “Hopefully things come together how we’re envisioning, and if it does, it’s something that could be pretty special.”

FREE THROWS

1) Freshman forward John Shurna looks strikingly similar to Coble on paper at 6-foot-8, 210-pounds. And, just like Coble, Shurna provides versatility.

As a senior in high school, Shurna averaged nearly 23 points, 12 rebounds and three blocks per game. He also won the Illinois large-school slam-dunk contest. In the past, Carmody has been criticized for restricting players’ ability to dunk. Don’t expect the ninth-year head coach to restrict Shurna’s dunking ability. “What is this,” Carmody asked rhetorically about allowing Shurna to dunk “You’re speaking in the pejorative there. Of course I would. Who doesn’t like to see a guy slam the ball? We just haven’t had that many guys who could. You want Vince Scott or Aaron Jennings to slam the ball? Please.”

2) In order for the Princeton offense to work to perfection, a powerful big man needs to operate in the post. In 7-foot, 280-pound freshman Kyle Rowley, Carmody found an interior presence who could be a centerpiece to the offense.

Rowley, an Arima, Trinidad native, attended school at Lake Forest Academy (Ill.) for the last two seasons. He has displayed a strong work ethic, losing considerable weight since moving to the United States.

“He’s not baby Ewing,” Carmody said. “I don’t know what the nickname will be for that guy, but he’s big, strong and smart. He’s got a little Caribbean culture in there, so I’ve got to make sure the guy’s consistently a hard worker. But he’s getting better every day.”

AROUND THE RIM:

When you think Northwestern basketball, what’s the first thing that comes to mind?

Here are the reactions of several top players around the Big Ten…

E’Twaun Moore, sophomore guard, Purdue – “The first thing I think of: that backdoor, that Princeton offense they run. It’s definitely a good system they run. That’s kind of hard to guard. That’s definitely one of the hardest teams to guard in the Big Ten.”

Kalin Lucas, sophomore guard, Michigan State – “They have the Princeton offense with all the passing and cutting, cutting and screening. When you play them, you just have to talk all the time when you’re on defense. It takes a lot of preparation. They will hit you with a lot of slips, pick and rolls, back doors.”

Marcus Landry, senior forward, Wisconsin – “That offense, that’s the first thing that comes to mind. And the day before we play Northwestern, that practice is something I don’t really look forward to. It’s crazy. That offense is very difficult, and coach doesn’t like to get beat.”

David Lighty, junior guard/forward Ohio State – “1-3-1. I always have like four or five turnovers when I play Northwestern. It’s hard playing against that defense. You’ve got to know what you’re doing before things happen, because you’ll end up turning the ball over.”

matthewforman2007@u.northwestern.edu

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