Men’s Basketball: Dererk Pardon expected to return against Minnesota


Daily file photo by Rachel Dubner

Dererk Pardon defends an opponent. The sophomore center is expected to return from injury against Minnesota.

Garrett Jochnau, Sports Editor

Men’s Basketball

Sophomore center Dererk Pardon is on track to make his return from injury against Minnesota on Thursday, Northwestern coach Chris Collins said Tuesday.

The second-year big man started the Wildcats’ first seven games before undergoing surgery on an injured right wrist and missing eight games.

“He was cleared to start doing some basketball things at the end of last week,” Collins said. “He’s had about a week of activity, which has been good. He looks good in practice. He hasn’t favored the hand at all.”

Pardon’s injury left an already-thin NU frontcourt even more depleted. Freshman center Barret Benson has started in Pardon’s place, growing increasingly comfortable during his teammate’s absence. Junior forward Gavin Skelly’s role was also elevated. Though he continued to come off the bench, Skelly logged starters minutes at the 5.

Though the two helped the Cats go 7-1 without Pardon, the lack of frontcourt depth was exposed in NU’s most recent game against Michigan State, when Skelly struggled with foul trouble.

Beyond Pardon’s key role, the Cats will benefit from another body in the paint.

“We’ll have a little more of an inside presence, and we’ll have our guy that rebounds best for us and protects our basket,” junior point guard Bryant McIntosh said. “Having him back will just give us a little bit more juice, so having the full roster will be a great thing to have back.”

Skelly said Pardon’s right hand improved during his absence, but Collins doesn’t want the big man to push himself beyond his limits when he again sees action.

Comparing the situation to the return of Alex Olah, the starting center on the 2015-16 roster, the coach stressed that if Pardon looks to do too much, it could backfire.

“The thing that’s most important for him is to not feel like he has to be a savior,” Collins said. “The thing with Dererk is just to keep it simple to who he is, bring the energy, be the anchor for us defensively, blocking shots, rebounding, finish under the basket and just let the game come to him.”

His presence will likely be needed against a Minnesota team that has outperformed early expectations, most recently upsetting then-No. 15 Purdue and their giant frontcourt.

Though undersized, Pardon has become an integral member of the Cats’ defense and a reliable contributor on the boards. NU logged a resume-building win over Dayton without him, but the center’s return should give the team a boost to tackle the upcoming conference slate after a disappointing loss to the Spartans.

“I won’t say he’s been the missing piece, because we’ve played well without him,” junior guard Scottie Lindsey said. “But … we’ll move to another level when he comes back.”

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