The college basketball season is a dark place. From April to November, teams across the country revert into a hoops hibernation, shielded from media spotlight and mostly unavailable to the public eye in the same way as, say, football players are during spring practice. Things ramp up again over the summer, and a recent NCAA rule pushing the start of official practice back two weeks ensures teams will begin formal preseason preparations even earlier this season.
Those extra two weeks are a welcome development, but the college basketball season remains a distant entity, microscopically positioned in the most forward-looking reaches of our winter sports imaginations. We’re here to help you bridge the gap with some refresher-type player capsules. Over the next couple of weeks, we’ll be rolling out quick little offseason snapshots of each player, how they performed last season and what you can probably expect as the Wildcats prepare for new coach Chris Collins’ first season. So if you’re ever missing basketball, if you find yourself pining for what’s to come on the hardwood this winter, you have brief individual player breakdowns to hold you over.
There is a lot of time to fill during a college hoops offseason, and convenient exercises like these can expedite the process.
Stats to know (from 2012-13 unless indicated otherwise)
Offensive rating: 95.0
Effective Field goal%: 47.9
Usage Rate: 18.0
A slow transition with gradually increasing playing time and expanded responsibilities on both ends of the court is the simple expectation most freshmen – outside the few top-100 players, the Andrew Wigginses and Jabari Parkers of the world, who hop on campus knowing they’re going to play right away – have when they arrive at their new school. That’s probably the most accurate prism with which to view Abrahamson’s journey to Northwestern. Abrahamson was joining the Wildcats under the assumption his most crucial and most heavily used court-time was going to come sometime later in his college career.
A prohibitively disruptive injury situation changed the timeline; soon enough, thanks to a devastating glut of various medical woes, season-ending and not, Abrahamson became one of the few healthy bodies Northwestern could rely on to pull it through the stretch run of a brutal Big Ten season. Abrahamson took his lumps against savvier and more physically imposing conference competition, but his early and entry (and expanded minutes within) into league play allowed for a streamlined learning curve that might have otherwise taken years to complete.
Where he fits
The perimeter rotation could be more difficult for Abrahamson to crack in his sophomore season than it was last year. Drew Crawford and JerShon Cobb will eat major minutes at the small forward and guard spots; and yeah, Abrahamson can play power forward, can his the glass energetically and effectively in spurts and can double as a stretchy four-man, but his perimeter shooting and larger set of offensive skills are best used out on the perimeter.
It’s difficult to say exactly where Abrahamson will fit this year because we don’t really know what Chris Collins’ first team, and first lineup configuration, will look like. If the Wildcats play a four-out offense, with Dave Sobolewski, Cobb, Crawford and Abrahamson as perimeter-dwelling guards, then a starting position is not out of the question. With three guards and two traditional big men, Abrahamson may take on sixth-man duties and influence the game in shorter bursts with his shooting touch and tricky (Abrahamson is long, possesses one of the weirder but quicker three-point releases and is surprisingly proficient at limiting turnovers) matchup demands.
What to expect
The more Abrahamson played last season, the more he started to understand the floor spacing and complex movements of Northwestern’s Princeton offense – an offense that, perhaps to Abrahamson’s detriment, will not be part of the Wildcats’ plans this season. Abrahamson should he able to adjust on the fly, quickly learn Collins’ alternative system and pick up right where he left off last season, which was a developing if raw talent still trying to make his offensive skills work against the restrictive defensive rigors of Big Ten play.
That development will continue this season, and Abrahamson should improve with more playing time and more experience against conference competition. He already knows the feeling of matching up against the very best players from the very best teams, and the unexpected experience gained during his first season – no matter the harrowing circumstances that required it – will hasten his maturation and growth into one of Northwestern’s lineup cornerstones. Abrahamson is ready to clean up his individual defending, sand off the rough edges in his inconsistent offensive game and become a more complete two-way player.