Men’s Basketball: Vic Law’s return gives Northwestern lineup flexibility


Daily file photo by Nathan Richards

Vic Law flies for a dunk. After missing last season due to a torn labrum, the sophomore forward is set to return and give the Wildcats new lineup flexibility.

Ben Pope, Reporter

Men’s Basketball

Last year, Northwestern direly missed sophomore forward Vic Law, who did not play the entire season while recovering from labrum surgery on his left shoulder.

But when Law returned to intra-squad scrimmages this fall, his teammates weren’t quite prepared for it.

“Some of us forgot how athletic he was,” senior forward Sanjay Lumpkin said. “I forgot how long he was on defense, how he was always around the rim, playing above the rim. You’ve got to box him out.”

Fortunately for Lumpkin, the task of boxing Law out will soon fall on the Wildcats’ opponents — and Lumpkin will have a new partner-in-defense.

Given Law’s lanky 6-foot-7, 205-pound frame and ability to play every position but point guard and center, his return to full health will give NU a valuable asset on both ends of the court.

“I’m going to be used however I can help the team: whether that be scoring, defensively, rebounding or whatever situation coach needs me,” Law said. “You can only practice so much before you’re finally ready to get out there and play somebody else, so I’m pretty excited.”

As the Cats’ first-ever ESPN Top 100 recruit, Law made an immediate impact in his 2014-15 freshman season, averaging 7.0 points and 4.8 rebounds per game. He was rather inefficient offensively — shooting just 38.7 percent from the field — but his 3-point shot improved over the course of the season as he hit 14 of his final 24 attempts from beyond the arc.

Law’s natural athleticism and physical ability was most helpful on the defensive end, however, where he guarded a variety of positions and tied for the team lead with 21 steals.

He was expected to grow into a starring role in 2015-16, but an injury sustained over the summer worsened as winter approached, and Law ultimately had to undergo surgery and miss the season.

“It was just a learning experience for the most part, getting older and trying to mature as a leader off the court,” he said. “It was hard for a while, sitting there and watching some of the games that were so close that we lost. I just felt like I could’ve been a tipping force.”

But Law said he feels 100 percent healthy and ready to be that tipping force this season, beginning with Friday’s season opener against Mississippi Valley State.

His presence will give coach Chris Collins ample flexibility with his lineup decisions at shooting guard, small forward and power forward.

Law committed as a small forward but can easily shift into a more physical role inside or, after learning from now-graduated Tre Demps over the past two years, a more offensively-oriented role on the perimeter.

“There may be times where Vic can be a (shooting) guard out there and he plays with Aaron (Falzon) and Sanjay, or with Aaron and (Gavin) Skelly,” Collins said. “Those are things we can do this year that we didn’t really have last year. Because Vic can do a little bit of everything, it allows you to be … more creative with the five you put on the floor.”

In another possible combination, junior Scottie Lindsey could play shooting guard with Lumpkin and Law filling the forward positions.

This would make Lumpkin and Law the two stalwarts of the Cats’ defensive scheme, which was a hybrid between zone and man-to-man last season but was solely the latter in last Friday’s exhibition game.

“In the games when teams are going to go to their key guy, it can be me and Sanjay … that can be called on to get that last stop to win the game,” Law said. “Throughout the game, he and I can wear out guys and just play aggressive defense.”

Regardless of where Law eventually slots into the starting lineup — “I’m prepared for whatever position I’m thrown into,” he said — NU will benefit from his return in all facets. On Friday, Law’s 610-day streak since last appearing in a purple and white jersey will end at last.

“(I’m) excited about the return of Vic Law,” Collins said. “We missed him last year — his versatility, his athleticism, his ability to make plays.”

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