Men’s Basketball: Northwestern seniors prepare for home finale against Penn State


Daily file photo by Meghan White

Senior guard Reggie Hearn attempts a shot. Hearn will play in his final home game Thursday. He earned a scholarship for his play after initially joining the team as a walk-on.

Josh Walfish, Reporter

Northwestern’s three seniors may be the most diverse bunch in recent memory.

There’s Jared Swopshire, a graduate student who transferred this season from University of Louisville and is out for the rest of the season with a knee injury. There’s Alex Marcotullio, the sixth man for the Wildcats for the last couple of seasons and an efficient shooter. Then there’s Reggie Hearn, who played 72 minutes his first two seasons as a walk-on before finally earning a scholarship and becoming a consistent starter for NU.

The group has not had many fond memories during this year’s 13-16 campaign, but Marcotullio said it feels like not much time has passed since he and Hearn came to Evanston.

“It seems like I’ve been here for a while, but at the same time I feel like my career has just started,” the guard said. “It feels like just yesterday I was stepping in here in the summer and trying to learn like some of these guys are now.”

During the last four years, NU has played in a lot of memorable contests. However, two stuck out to both Hearn and Marcotullio.

The first was on Jan. 16, 2010, when No. 6 Purdue came to Welsh-Ryan Arena. The second was nearly two years later, when No. 6 Michigan State visited Evanston. The Cats won both matches, and the students stormed the court on both occasions.

Those two games underscore the transformation Hearn has undergone in the last four years. The guard did not play against the Boilermakers in 2010 but started and scored 10 points on 5-for-6 shooting against the Spartans.

“I had no idea what to expect coming in,” Hearn said. “I knew I could play and I was confident in myself, but at the same time I knew I was a walk-on and it would take me some time to learn the system and get acquainted with the team.”

Hearn said he first felt he could really compete at the Big Ten level when he hit all four of his shots from behind the arc and scored a then-career-high 17 points in a win over Central Connecticut State. He has already surpassed that total six times this season, scoring at least 20 points in four contests.

Coach Bill Carmody said his first inkling Hearn could make a significant contribution came during the practices leading up to last season. With most of NU’s guards injured, Hearn moved from the forward spot to guard and exceeded expectations. When the guards eventually got healthier, Hearn retained his starting spot and beat out his competition.

“That’s just a tribute to the kind of kid he is and the hard worker he is,” Carmody said. “He had some ability. It’s not just hard work. The guy’s got some talent and when you combine those two things, you move forward.”

The lone black mark on this class’ resume is the lack of an NCAA Tournament appearance. Barring a magical run through the Big Ten Tournament, the infamous streak will continue. Hearn said as disappointing as it may be, he will still take his wealth of memories with him for the rest of his life.

Senior Day against Penn State will be emotional for the three seniors being honored, and Marcotullio said he will take some time to soak in the moment and reflect on his career.

“It’s going to be an emotional night for me with all those great memories I’ve had here,” he said. “I’m just going to take a moment out and look up and thank everyone and just be proud.”