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Men’s Basketball: Amid talk of future, Collins, Wildcats focused on present

Jesse Kramer, Reporter

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There is a lot of long-term talk surrounding Northwestern basketball.

How many years will it take Chris Collins to guide the Wildcats to their first NCAA Tournament appearance?

Collins already has the best freshman class in NU history. Can one or two more similar classes make the team a Big Ten contender? Of course, a freshly renovated Welsh-Ryan Arena gives the Cats facilities that will help attract better recruits in the future.

But none of that is Collins’ priority.

Friday marked the beginning of the new college basketball season with NU’s first official practice, and Collins stressed that his goal is to win right now.

“If you don’t have aspirations to be in postseason, then you shouldn’t be playing,” he said. “I’m doing a disservice to (senior guard) JerShon Cobb, to (senior guard) Dave Sobolewski and to (senior forward) Jeremiah Kreisberg if I talk long-term. Our mindset is we need to have the mentality of those three kids where this is their last year and they don’t get another go-around. We solely are talking about the present.”

But to make the veterans’ last go-around a successful one, the Cats will need help from the freshman class that ESPN ranked No. 6 in the Big Ten and No. 31 in the nation.

Sobolewski said the veterans have incorporated the newcomers into the program, and the new guys are catching on to the culture. Rather than worry about the young guys potentially snagging some of his playing time, he is excited to see what the freshmen will bring to the court.

“It’s great to have this group,” Sobolewski said. “They’re really here to learn from both the veterans and the coaches, which is great to see. They’re talented, which is obviously good as well.”

Freshman Vic Law, a top-100 recruit, has been bought into the system and said he also is not focused on future seasons. He wants this team to break through to that first NCAA Tournament this spring.

“The Big Ten is a great conference with some really good teams,” Law said. “But I really believe in this team this year. If we all do our jobs and do what we need to do, we can do it.”

In order to build on last season’s 14-19 record, Collins said the Cats need to improve offensively without slacking defensively.

NU ranked No. 309 in offensive efficiency last season, according to Kenpom.com. But the Cats stifled opponents with the 14th-best defensive efficiency.

Two of NU’s offensive playmakers return in Cobb and junior guard Tre Demps. Collins has already added freshmen Law, Bryant McIntosh, Johnnie Vassar and Scottie Lindsey into the group of offensive weapons.

The rookies will certainly be seeing a good share of playing time, considering they make up nearly half of the roster’s scholarship players. Collins said he would not shy away from playing them over upperclassmen.

“It doesn’t matter what class a guy is,” Collins said. “Every spot is open. The guys that can best help us win are going to play.”

Email: jessekramer2017@u.northwestern.edu
Twitter: @JesseKramer

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