Though there is still plenty of football left to be played, the start of basketball season is just around the corner.
Exhibition games against Robert Morris are two weeks away for both Northwestern teams – Nov. 4 for the men, and Nov. 1 for the women. On Monday, men’s coach Bill Carmody and women’s coach Joe McKeown spoke publically about their squads.
After barely missing out on a first-ever NCAA tournament berth last year and bowing out in the first round of the NIT, Carmody likes his team’s attitude this year.
“Our guys are pretty confident that they can play with just about anybody,” he said. “The confidence level is right where it should be. Not crazy, but just right where it should be.”
For McKeown, it has been a whirlwind 17 months. He has had his work cut out for him, trying to turn around what has been one of the worst programs in the conference for a decade.
Even though a 7-23 record was not ideal, McKeown said the team can build on last season’s experiences.
“Everything has kind of flown by,” McKeown said. “I feel like we laid a foundation, trying to rebuild a program and get a lot of things in place. A lot of things showed up and I feel like we were successful in that area.”
The Wildcats played their best basketball at the end of the season. They notched a win over Minnesota, an NCAA tournament team, and took Iowa down to the wire.
Both McKeown and Carmody welcome talented freshmen this year. The incoming class for the women’s team, headlined by Kendall Hackney, was ranked No. 20 by ESPN’s Hoopgurlz recruiting service. Hackney, a 6-foot-3 forward, is the reigning high school basketball player of the year in Ohio and has impressed the coaching staff.
“Kendall, in our practices so far, seems to handle everything we can throw at her,” McKeown said.
The class also includes point guard Ineshia Hale, walk-on Lia Henry, and Dannielle Diamant, who McKeown called “our premier outside shooter” even though she is 6-foot-5.
On the men’s side, highly touted guards Drew Crawford and Alex Marcotullio will try to fill the void left by Craig Moore, the team’s leading scorer last season. Moore graduated in June and is playing professionally in the Netherlands.
Based on what Carmody has seen so far, the pair of freshmen should make an earlyseason impact.
“I could tell right off the bat that the freshmen were quick studies, fast learners,” Carmody said. “They’ve picked things up. That’s always good to see. I don’t think that there will be a big transition.”
The men’s team will carry another new guard this year as well: Reggie Hearn, a walk-on.
ON THE OFFENSIVE
Since the start of official practices, NU’s focus has been on working out the kinks offensively. Carmody does not expect that to change in the immediate future.
“I don’t think about defense for a few weeks,” he said. “All we’re doing is offense. No slide drills, none of that stuff.”
Part of the reason for this tactic is Carmody’s unique system. He is one of the leading teachers of the Princeton offense, which can be a tough adjustment for newcomers. As a result, defense always takes less time to learn.
“If you have good kids and you get them going and you can motivate them a little bit, you’re going to be okay defensively unless your talent level is so bad,” Carmody said. “But on offense you have to pay attention to detail and you have to work together. You have to be precise, and you just can’t be sloppy and be good.”
The Cats were fourth in the Big Ten in field goal percentage last year and first from beyond the arc.
The 2009-2010 season officially kicks off for both teams on Nov. 13. The women face Toledo on the road, while the men host Northern Illinois at 7 p.m.