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Northwestern basketball hypothetical All-Star Game: USA vs. The World (mostly Croatia)

A few years back, the NHL decided to shelve its usual, staid All-Star Game format of Western Conference vs. Eastern Conference, and in a nod to its international make-up, went to a match-up of North American All-Stars vs. World All-Stars. Really, it should have been Canada vs the World, but the NHL rightfully assumed that we Americans would not stand for an event celebrating Canadian exceptionalism, and so the US-born and Canadian-born All-Stars were lumped together as North America. (There were no Mexican-born nor Caribbean-born All-Stars, you may be surprised to learn.)

Anyway, the NHL did away with the continental/global superiority contest after a few years, the gimmick having worn itself out. But Northwestern basketball is nothing if not gimmicky, what with the quirky Princeton offense, the unconventional 1-3-1 defense and Bill Carmody's odd penchant for recruiting foreign players. And so, especially with that last point in mind, I had a thought: what if there were an NU basketball All-Star game that pitted Carmody's American players against his foreign players?

Who would win? It could be awesome. You'd have John Shurna and Vedran Vukusic matching each other, trey for trey. Juice Thompson going head to head against T.J. Parker. Luka Mirkovic battling Vince Scott in the post out beyond the three-point line.

So, I went through NU's basketball roster in Carmody's 12 years at the helm, picking the best of the best for Team USA and Team World. On first glance, Team USA obviously has a lot more depth, but the starting fives look pretty evenly matched. My All-Star teams do not include any newcomers for the 2012-2013 season, since we have no idea how they'll do on the court, so Cerina, Brzoja and Olah will have to wait their turn to join Team World, and Swopshire, Abrahamson, Demps, Turner and Lumpkin will be future contenders for Team USA.

The lineups, presented the United Colors of Benetton, after the jump!


Point guard: Juice Thompson for Team USA, T.J. Parker for Team World

Edge: even.

Juice is a fan favorite, and the pint-sized guard was the heart and soul of the team, especially his last two seasons at NU. The French-born Parker is best known as the brother of NBA star Tony Parker, and he spent just three years in Evanston before turning pro in Europe. But he was an excellent player for the Wildcats, with his speed and knack for hitting clutch shots. I'd say Parker probably had more innate talent, but Juice had the heart of a lion, so I rate this a push.

Shooting guard: Jitim Young for Team USA, Mohammad Hachad for Team World

Edge: USA

Both guys were four-year starters. Young was a gritty leader of the Wildcats, a hard-nosed guard who could rebound. He was a first-team All-Big Ten selection his senior year, when he led NU in points, steals and rebounds. The Moroccan-born, Quebec-raised Hachad was a defensive ace, being named to the Big 10 All-Defensive Team. As Parker's backcourt-mate, the two would shout out signals to each other in French, which just seems very Northwestern. Hachad was a fun player to watch, but I give Young's all-around game the nod.

Small forward: Tim Doyle for Team USA, Vedran Vukusic for Team World

Edge: World, easily

Doyle, now everybody's favorite BTN analyst, had an ugly but effective game and was often the lone bright spot on some awful Wildcat teams. I was tempted to put Drew Crawford here, but we haven't seen his senior season yet. The Croatian Vukusic, meanwhile, was NU's closest thing to an NBA prospect until John Shurna. Vukusic had a nice three-point stroke, but also had the size and ability to post up down low. He led the Big Ten in scoring as a senior and finished his career fourth on NU's all-time scoring list. Vukusic wins this match-up hands down.

Power forward: John Shurna for Team USA, Davor Duvancic for Team World

Edge: USA, easily

I thought about putting Vukusic here, where he'd be neck and neck in a head-to-head against Shurna, but I didn't really have any other World candidates for small forward, so Duvancic is Team World's power forward. This position would be Team USA's deepest, with Kevin Coble and Tavaras Hardy also worthy of consideration. But Shurna is Mr. Wildcat, the program's all-time leading scorer, with NBA potential and a great attitude, to boot. You can't help but like the guy. The Croatian-born Duvancic was a serviceable player for the Wildcats, often pressed into duty as an undersized center, just like Shurna. But he's not Shurna.

Center: Aaron Jennings for Team USA, Luka Mirkovic for Team World

Edge: Uh, push, I guess

If this hypothetical game were to occur, I suspect Team USA would take its chances with Tavaras Hardy at center, where he sometimes started in place of Jennings. But Jennings is a true center, so he gets the nod in this exercise. Jennings did manage to average 11.3 points his senior season, but his career 3.4 rebounds per game average makes Mirkovic look like Kareem Abdul Jabbar. As for Team World, I imagine Mirkovic and Rowley would go back into a platoon, with the starter being determined by the match-up.


For Team USA: G Drew Crawford, G Winston Blake, G Craig Moore, F Kevin Coble, F Tavaras Hardy, C Vince Scott, C Davide Curletti

For Team World: G Jean-Marc Melchior, F Bernard Cote, F Ivan Peljusic, F/C Thomas Soltau, F/C Nikola Baran, C Kyle Rowley, C Ivan Tolic

Edge: USA, easily

Yeah, Team World has a bunch of guys that you might not have heard of, and most of them didn't even play for four years at NU. Team World would have serious problems if Parker or Hachad got into foul trouble, as the Luxembourgian Melchior did not accomplish much on the court during his three seasons at NU. There's some more depth on the front line, but nobody particularly notable.

Meanwhile, for Team USA, Crawford could be a starter, as could Coble and Hardy. Moore would be a deadly three-point specialist off the bench, and Blake could play some, as well. There were also several other American players who could have made the roster: Alex Marcotullio (though his playing for the English National Team might warrant his inclusion on Team World, which would help balance out the talent a bit), Jershon Cobb and Jeremy Nash also had strong cases for inclusion on the 12-man roster, but just missed the cut, in my book.

Anyway, over the long haul, Team USA's depth would definitely win out. But if the teams were managed like Carmody would, and Team World played its starters for 37+ minutes, I think Team World would match up pretty well.

What say you?