Men’s Basketball: Northwestern’s newest freshmen class prepares to live up to billing


Daily file photo by Allie Goulding

Miller Kopp attempts a layup. The freshman scored six points and added five assists in his first collegiate game.

Andrew Golden, Assistant Sports Editor

Men’s Basketball

There are a lot of new aspects to Northwestern in the 2018-2019 season.

A new-look arena. A-new look offense. But, arguably, the most exciting part about this basketball season is the new-look freshman class.

The four-man class of 2022 is the highest-ranked recruiting class in NU’s history. According to 247Sports, two members of the class, forwards Pete Nance and Miller Kopp, are two of the top four ranked recruits in the Wildcats’ history.

NU rounded out its class with center Ryan Young and guard Ryan Greer, who reclassified from the Class of 2019 to join this year’s group.

Nance entered Evanston as the highest-rated player ever recruited by coach Chris Collins — now the second-highest after the commitment of 2019 forward Robbie Beran. Meanwhile, Kopp is fourth behind senior captain Vic Law, who commited in 2014. Law knows the expectations that come with being a highly-touted recruit.

“(I told them) just play hard and just know that there will be some down times their freshman year,” Law said. “Being a freshman in the Big Ten is never easy but the team believes in them… whatever they go through, we’ll always have their back.”

All of the freshman know about winning. In their senior seasons, they combined to lead their respective teams to win four championships.

Although he has only been on campus for a couple of months, Nance said the biggest lesson he has learned is how to relax and not get stressed out when things become difficult.

“A lot of the times, it can get a little overwhelming,” Nance said. “(I’m) just trying to take a breath… we’re here for a reason as freshman, we talk about it all the time, so it’s just kinda trying to stay focused and getting ready for the season.”

Arguably no one in this freshman class has higher expectations to succeed than Nance, who comes from strong basketball pedigree. His father, Larry Nance, played 13 seasons with the Phoenix Suns and the Cleveland Cavaliers. His brother, Larry Nance Jr., was a first-round pick in 2015 and currently plays for the Cavaliers.

Despite the comparisons to his family, Nance said he feels no pressure; he just wants to contribute in whatever way he can to help the team. Kopp echoed those sentiments, saying he doesn’t know what his role is, but he wants to win.

“I’m a team player and I like to win,” Kopp said. “That’s all I want to bring to this program… I’m a high energy guy and I just want to bring a lot of energy, just a winning vibe. That’s really what I’m about.”

Collins added that the Cats have enough veterans that the freshman won’t play too much, allowing them to grow into the college game and aid their development. For one of the freshman, he will not see the court at all. Collins announced after the exhibition game against McKendree on Friday that Young will take a redshirt year.

Greer is the final freshman who will look to make an impact this year. The 6’2” guard will be the backup to senior guard Jordan Ash, the only other true point guard in a relatively thin backcourt.

Regardless of whether they contribute immediately, Collins has high expectations for his best recruiting class since he took the helm in 2013.

“It’s a class that can get a lot done here over the next four years,” Collins said. “You have guards, you have wings, you have a big man in Ryan Young. I just think it’s four guys that are about the right stuff. They’re hard-working kids, they’re talented guys; I think all of them have a chance to have an excellent careers here.”

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @andrewcgolden