Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Men’s Basketball: What transfer guard Jalen Leach will bring to Northwestern

Daily file photo by Taylor Hancock
Assistant coach Talor Battle relays information to players during a game earlier this season.

Fairfield guard Jalen Leach announced his commitment to Northwestern Monday afternoon.

The Nyack, New York, native had a breakout senior campaign in 2023-24, where he averaged 16.2 points, 4.1 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 1.8 steals per game. He shot 48.8% from the field, 35.4% from three and 89.5% from the free throw line.

Leach will likely slot into the Wildcats’ starting lineup at one of two guard spots. During his first three seasons at Fairfield, where he appeared in 58 games, he averaged 5.6 points per game. His jump to over 16 points per game reflected a massive improvement.

Leach’s jump across the board is nothing short of impressive. Between his junior and senior seasons, he became a high-volume scorer.

His ability to attack the rim while also being a good shooter from beyond the arc — 35.4% from three-point range while shooting 4.1 threes per game — makes him a viable option from all three levels.

He shot 3.9 free throw attempts per game last season, converting them at a MAAC-high 89.5% clip. His scoring versatility will be a weapon for coach Chris Collins, as he can be employed in a variety of offensive sets in different ways.

Career-highs in all above statistics led Leach to an All-MAAC First Team nod last season.

Leach’s 56.0 2PT% ranked seventh in the conference despite standing at only 6-foot-4. He ranked eighth in the conference in total free throw attempts and is a great downhill scoring threat. His ability to remain comfortable within close range should remind NU fans of the program’s all-time scoring leader Boo Buie.

Fairfield had the MAAC’s best offense — largely due to Leach’s ability to get the ball through the rim. He was the conference’s only player to rank top-five in both points per game and TS%, an impressive scoring feat.

By reaching 24 wins, Fairfield achieved its highest number of wins in a season since 2010-11. Much of Fairfield’s success can be credited to Leach’s individual accomplishments.

Perhaps the most glaring question is if Leach’s play will be able to translate to a high-major conference. The MAAC’s history gives an answer — Leach will be an impactful player for the ’Cats, and his production will not disappear.

Three members of the 2022-23 All-MAAC First Team transferred to a higher-level conference. Here’s how their point totals fared in their transfer:

Note that all three of these players started every game at their new school — New Mexico State for Junior Joseph, Georgia for Thomasson, and Florida for Clayton Jr. Two of these teams — New Mexico State and Florida — were NCAA tournament teams. 

The trend shows that it’s likely Leach will not average 16.6 points per game or higher. He will be moving to a slower-paced Northwestern offense, so a dip in his production is probable. That said, there’s no doubt that he will be able to help the ’Cats’ offense continue to thrive.

For the second consecutive season, Collins and company have added a high-level offensive guard to their repertoire. Adding a player of Leach’s caliber is especially important for a team with hopes to make the NCAA Tournament for the third straight year.

Email: [email protected]

X: @CharlieSpungin

Related Stories: 

Men’s Basketball: Northwestern acquires Fairfield guard Jalen Leach

Men’s Basketball: Northwestern’s Berry, Nicholson to return for fifth seasons

Men’s Basketball: Buie and Langborg bid farewell to collegiate careers, Northwestern’s season ends in Round of 32 loss to No. 1 Connecticut

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