Men’s Basketball: Wildcats unite in face of adversity

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Daily file photo by Meghan White

Graduate student Jared Swopshire attempts a shot against Texas Southern. Swopshire and the Wildcats have grown closer as a team since the injuries of senior forward Drew Crawford and senior guard Reggie Hearn sidetracked the season.

Josh Walfish, Reporter

If adversity is supposed to be a great uniting factor for teams, Northwestern is well suited for unity.

There may not be a Big Ten team that has faced more hardships this season than the Wildcats, who in the last month have had to absorb the loss of senior forward Drew Crawford for the season with a shoulder injury, an ankle injury for senior guard Reggie Hearn and a hand injury for freshman Sanjay Lumpkin.

It doesn’t help that NU has lost its first two conference games by an average of 23 points. Yet the Cats have become closer as a team and freshman forward Kale Abrahamson said he likes what he’s seen from this teammates over the past few weeks.

“I think we’ve had to (grow closer),” Abrahamson said. “It’s time like those when you lose when people’s characters come out … your character shows in those time when you really need it the most and that’s really what’s happening with everybody.”

The Cats were a tight-knit group before the season, and many of the older players have helped out the many young players on the roster. Coach Bill Carmody called his team good guys and said the bonding should only grow.

“It’s a pretty solid bunch,” Carmody said. “The more they play together, you’ll see the chemistry get better.”

As a consequence of the injuries, many younger players have been thrust onto the court and are playing more minutes than they anticipated. Abrahamson went from being one of the first men off the bench to starting but said he has not felt any differently before and during games now that he is a starter. The move pushed redshirt freshman guard Tre Demps up the depth chart, and he has seen his minutes increase in the past couple of weeks.

Senior Jared Swopshire is new to NU but not to college basketball after playing four years at Louisville. The forward said the team has been just trying to motivate each other to make the team as good as possible.

“Guys are having to step up,” Swopshire said. “We’re just encouraging each other and just trying to keep pushing forward.”

Demps noted that Crawford’s injury created an opportunity not only for minutes, but also for chemistry.

“I think we’ve grown a lot closer,” Demps said. “Everyone’s expected to give a little bit more now since Drew went down. We just all try to collectively come together with our talents and just step up.”

Thursday’s game against Penn State (8-6,0-2) will prove a crucial test for NU (9-6, 0-2) if it wants to get back to winning. The Nittany Lions are also winless in the conference, and a victory would give the Cats some confidence heading into the bulk of their conference slate. Abrahamson and Swopshire both said the game is important for the Cats not to fall too far behind the rest of the conference.

Swopshire said the team is still optimistic despite the slow start to the Big Ten season and understands they are close to figuring out the winning formula.

“We’re positive,” he said. “Everyone’s upbeat. We’re just trying to keep working hard and we realize we’re right there, it’s just little things.”