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Northwestern basketball practice notes: Monday, Nov. 4

EVANSTON, Ill. — Northwestern starts the 2013-2014 basketball season with an exhibition against Lewis on Wednesday night at Welsh-Ryan Arena. Here are some notes from today’s practice:

- The most consequential development from Monday’s practice was Chris Collins giving some insight into Wednesday’s starting lineup.

“[The group] that starts on Wednesday will be reflective of the guys, [that] going into the season, I feel should be the guys that should be out there starting,” he said.

Collins went on to say that wing players Drew Crawford and JerShon Cobb, center Alex Olah and point guard Dave Sobolewski were the set starters for now. He said that he still needed to decide between Nate Taphorn and Sanjay Lumpkin for the fifth and final spot. It did seem, though, that Collins was leaning toward starting Lumpkin as he called the redshirt freshman the team’s “best rebounder and defender.”

Going with essentially a four-guard and one-big lineup is something Northwestern has been forced to do historically, due to a lack of inside depth. In the past, Collins has said that he isn’t worried about sending out this type of lineup because he said that the best teams in the country are moving to more perimeter-based, athletic offensive and defensive schemes.

Another note stemming from Collins’ comments was the presence of freshman guard/forward Nate Taphorn. Taphorn, apparently, has shown a lot of unexpected ability this offseason, forcing his way into consideration for a starting position. It seems as though he has surpassed Kale Abrahamson on the depth chart and will probably see major minutes as a freshman. Along with excellent size, the six-foot-seven Taphorn has a nice shooting stroke from deep. If Lumpkin ends up starting—all indications are that he will—Taphorn could be an effective offensive spark off the bench.

- As players rolled in to practice, the team usually goes through some light, individual shooting and dribbling drills. Wing players such as Crawford and Cobb were on one end of the floor working on post moves with assistant coach Patrick Baldwin.  Taphorn eventually joined them. Although this was just a short warm up, it seems as though the staff is emphasizing using wing players in the post. Meanwhile, on the other end of the floor, seven-foot center Alex Olah was working on his three-point range, knocking down threes from various spots on the perimeter.

- Just days away from his first game as a head coach, Collins is weary of what Lewis can do. After losing a close game to DePaul, Lewis knocked off Loyola with a 12-point win on Saturday. Collins said he has mentioned to his players that they can’t take this game lightly, specifically citing UNLV’s loss to Dixie State on Nov. 1.

“[Lewis] is good,” Collins said. “I don’t think young players realize the fine line between playing at the highest level versus playing in the league Lewis plays in. Anyone can be beaten on any given night. We can say, ‘Look, Lewis almost beat DePaul. They beat Loyola. This is a good team.’ I think [Lewis] will certainly have our attention. Now, whether we play well or do the things we want to do, that’s on us. It’s not because we don’t respect who we’re playing.”

- Ahead of his first ever game as head coach, Collins is admittedly nervous. But, unsurprisingly, he’s also “excited” for the experience.

“If you’re not nervous when you go into a game, then something’s wrong with you,” Collins said. “That doesn’t mean I don’t have other emotions too. I’m anxious. I’m excited. But nervousness is part of it. If I didn’t have butterflies going into a game, then I shouldn’t be doing what I’m doing. I think I’m more anxious and excited because I know how much work our guys have put in. I know where we are versus where we were. I’m really proud of that and I just want to see our guys rewarded. I want to see us get better. We are far from a finished product and we want to continue to get better.”