Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern


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Men’s Basketball: New is good thing for Wildcats

Northwestern+forward+Drew+Crawford+hopes+to+lead+a+young+Wildcats+team+to+the+NCAA+Tournament+for+the+first+time.
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Northwestern forward Drew Crawford hopes to lead a young Wildcats team to the NCAA Tournament for the first time.

This offseason was all about the new for Northwestern.

The Wildcats had two hours of organized team activities per week thanks to a new NCAA rule implemented this year. They had to adjust to playing with five new freshmen and Louisville transfer Jared Swopshire. In all, eight players on this year’s roster have not played a single minute for NU and 11 have played 60 minutes or less for the Cats last season. That leaves just four players who have made significant contributions to the team, but senior forward Drew Crawford is unconcerned about the lack of experience.

“They’re all looking pretty good,” Crawford said. “They’re getting their work ethics there. It’s kind of hard learning our system and all of that, but they’re catching on very quickly.”

Some of NU’s biggest additions have been just that – big. The Cats brought in two guys who stand seven feet or taller, Chier Ajou (7 feet 2 inches) and Alex Olah (7 feet). Swopshire is only 6 feet 8 inches tall but plays bigger than his size. The taller frontcourt helps improve a weakness of this team from last year, and senior guard Reggie Hearn said he has already seen the size pay off in practice.

“We definitely shored up our frontcourt,” Hearn said. “That was a big problem for us last year, not being (able to) defend down low or not being able to rebound because of a lack of size. That’s something that Swopshire and Olah and possibly a few other guys will bring to us this year.”

The newfound depth has brought with it a competitive spirit. Crawford and Swopshire have had the most notable battles over the offseason in practice. Crawford said he has improved from his competition with the transfer over the summer because the two have very similar skill sets.

However, the whole team has had an open competition with the starting lineup not yet set in stone. The situation has injected a new life into the players, many of whom are fighting for playing time. Crawford said the added competition in practice has only made everyone better and more prepared for the season ahead.

“Our practices have been extremely competitive because everyone’s gotten a chance to play,” Crawford said. “That helps each and every one of us when we’re competing in practice because everyone knows you have a chance to play, so that’s really pushing everyone.”

The most competitive position may be shooting guard. After junior JerShon Cobb was suspended for the season, the position took on a whole new level of competition. Hearn is the returning starter at the two-guard, but he is being pushed by redshirt freshman Tre Demps and senior Alex Marcotullio. The competition in practice has been fierce thus far, and Marcotullio said he expects it to only get tougher as the season progresses.

“Practices have been really really competitive, starting with the summer and it’s just going to get more and more competitive throughout the season,” Marcotullio said. “We have a lot of guys with a lot of talent and they can do a lot of things. It’s going to be tough for coach (Bill Carmody) to find a rotation.”

As practice began Oct. 12, the Cats said they were happy to move on from the disappointment of last season. But there is still one goal hanging over the team as the 2012-13 season inches closer to its start on Nov. 7: making the NCAA Tournament.

“There’s always that added pressure, but we’re trying not to look at that,” Marcotullio said. “We’re trying to take it one day at a time and just get better every practice. Hopefully it continues onto the games.”

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Men’s Basketball: New is good thing for Wildcats