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Collins Stakes Claim to Chicago With His Staff

And that's a wrap. Chris Collins has finished off his first staff at Northwestern with the hiring of Patrick Baldwin as his third assistant, joining Tavaras Hardy and Brian James. James' hiring hasn't been officially announced yet, but it has been widely reported that he will join Collins' staff, and the Chicago Tribune's Teddy Greenstein reports that announcement could come next week.

Baldwin played at Northwestern from 1990-1991 to 1993-1994 and has been an assistant coach at Missouri State the past two seasons. He was an assistant at Loyola (Chicago) the previous seven years, so although he's originally from Leavenworth, Kansas, he's very familiar with the Chicago area, and obviously, with the NU program. Greenstein quoted Collins as saying the NU connection was important.

As we noted, Baldwin is the third and final assistant on Collins' staff. Here's a quick run-through of the other two assistants.

Tavaras Hardy — Hardy was the associate head coach on Carmody's staff, and Collins retained him, which was a good idea for the sake of continuity, and for Hardy's known recruiting prowess in the Chicago area. Like Baldwin, Hardy played at NU and is well-liked by the players. While Collins has plenty of Chicago connections, Hardy will provide even more ties to Chicago.

Brain James — James was Collins' high school coach at Glenbrook North, and most recently was an assistant coach for Collins' dad, Doug, with the Philadelphia 76ers. James doesn't have any recruiting experience, but he knows the area well from his Glenbrook North days, and his NBA ties will be very helpful in recruiting. He's spent 13 years in the NBA, working with various teams as a scout and an assistant coach.

The first reaction? That's lots and lots of Chicago. Every coach on the new staff has tremendous experience recruiting the Chicago area, which tells us what most people figured to be the case all the time: like Pat Fitzgerald likes to say, NU's recruiting will "start and end in Chicago."

In some ways, the Chicago factor is overrated. The city and suburbs are both such hotbeds for talent, that it would be impossible for NU to expect to retain all of the best players, especially considering the program's lack of tradition. However, the Wildcats need to do a better job of keeping talent home, since after all, they do claim Chicago to be their own. Carmody's staff struggled to do this. The only assistant assigned to recruiting Chicago was Hardy. Fred Hill focused on the east coast, while Ivan Vujic focused more on international players. NU was able to keep some players home — John Shurna, Drew Crawford, Juice Thompson and Jitim Young all hail from the Chicago area — but the Wildcats couldn't secure any real pipelines to schools in the city or the suburbs. Changing that will be priority No. 1 for Collins' staff.

Collins and James already have strong ties to schools in the northern suburbs, and Collins has also recruited the city, getting Simeon's Jabari Parker to Duke just this year. Of course, recruiting to Duke is much easier than recruiting to Northwestern, but Collins is already building ties in the city. He got 4-star forward Paul White, of Whitney Young, to come to campus — a visit that White said went well — and has also reached out to 4-star St. Rita small forward Vic Law. Sure, both of them are longshots to come to NU, but just getting them on campus shows progress. Ultimately, recruiting is about building relationships and establishing a footprint in certain pipelines, and it seems Collins has a chance to do that in Chicago — Whitney Young coach Tyrone Slaughter told Wildcat Report that he thinks its certainly possible.

It's obvious that Collins wants Chicago to become an NU stronghold, and while it will take a lot of work, he's certainly already made progress, and has put together a great staff to do it. However, NU still wants to be a national program, since the school is a national university, and this staff will have to develop ties outside of Chicago. It will be interesting to see who gets assigned to which areas, and which areas NU will focus on. The Wildcats' recruiting efforts may start and end in Chicago, but there will be a lot of in-between that needs to be taken care of.

That will all be decided later, though it's certainly something worth keeping an eye on. The important thing is that NU's staff is finally set, and Collins can finally start a big recruiting push for a loaded class of 2014. Time will tell if the Wildcats can start a pipeline to the Windy City, and if it can start in 2014. Either way, Collins has made his intentions clear with this staff: he wants Chicago.