The typical sequence goes like this: a coach offers a scholarship to a player he believes worthy of a slot in his signing class. The player mulls the offer, often weighing it against other schools that have already extended their own offers, then – sometime before one of two signing periods – consummates the offer with a verbal commitment.
There was nothing “typical” about Gavin Skelly’s commitment to Northwestern Monday. The 2014 forward verbaled to the Wildcats before ever receiving a scholarship offer; it was more like a question, followed by a conditional promise, finally concluded by the mutual agreement to make Skelly the second commitment of coach Chris Collins’ Northwestern tenure.
After watching Skelly perform throughout the July evaluation period with his Team Work AAU squad, Collins presented Skelly with a rigid proposal. “He asked me if I would commit if he offered,” Skelly said, recalling the conversation. After talking it over with his family, Skelly decided he would commit to the idea of committing before ever receiving a scholarship offer he could commit to (try untangling that mental pretzel). He cut right through the complexities of Collins’ proposal, saying “that I would commit if he offered.” Collins responded by telling Skelly, “That he would commit to me if I committed to them.”
The process leading up to Skelly’s decision was much more complicated than the motivations behind it. Skelly wanted to play high-major basketball at a school with reputable academics and easy access to employment opportunities upon graduation. Northwestern offers all of the above.
“It was something I couldn’t pass up,” he said. “The basketball part of it and the academics, and you have all these fortune 500 companies in Chicago, which is great.”
When he joins the Wildcats a year from now, Skelly will compete for reserve minutes in young rotation that loses senior Drew Crawford to graduation this offseason. He says he can defend both 3s and 4s, but indicated Collins is unlikely to post him up on the offensive end – the basic premise behind his plans to refine his perimeter game, particularly his ability to face up, between now and his first summer practice in Evanston.
“That’s something I’m really going to work on,” he said.
It’s hard to say exactly where Collins will slot Skelly, in part because we don’t know exactly what Collins’ system will look like, but he should find a comfortable home as a hybrid ¾ man, agile enough to guard and face up and slice into the line and strong enough to hold his own in the paint.
Besides fine-tuning his perimeter skills and ballhandling, Skelly plans to add 10 pounds to his 6-foot-8, 215-pound frame while working on becoming a stronger finisher from close-range.
“Getting tougher is important,” he said.
His commitment is the Wildcats second in the class of 2014, joining St. Rita (Ill.) forward Vic Law. Collins has barely settled in as Northwestern’s new coach, and already, having secured two verbal commitments in relatively short order, looks well on his way towards replenishing the recruiting ranks with hand-picked talent, the first step of any successful rebuild. Collins has already plucked two of his own, with at least one more (and probably two) to come in the 2014 class.