This is summer workout season for Northwestern's basketball team, and thanks to an NCAA rule that is now in its second year, it means the Wildcats can have extended summer practice time, which is certainly beneficial for a team learning a new system under a new coach. It also means a lot of stairs.
However, one notable Wildcat isn't in Evanston this summer — he's halfway across the world in Pitesti, Romania. Alex Olah is representing his home country of Romania in the FIBA U20 European Championships this summer, and overall, he's doing quite well, ranking eighth in the tournament with 16 points per game through four games. He also leads his team in points by a wide margin, and he leads Romania in minutes played, though he's only third on the team in rebounds. Here's a quick look at his numbers so far:
Game 1: Poland (L, 92-62)
Stat Line: 27 min, 17 points, 3 rebounds
Game 2: Slovakia (W, 78-62)
Stat Line: 32 min, 21 points, 9 rebounds, 6 assists
Game 3: Great Britain (L, 99-43)
Stat Line: 21 min, 9 points, 5 rebounds
Game 4: Hungary (L, 65-53)
Stat Line: 38 min, 17 points, 4 rebounds
[Update]: Game 5: Luxembourg (W, 72-69)
Stat Line: 37 min, 18 points, 22 (!!!) rebounds
While Olah might be having a decent tournament, Romania is not. The Romanians are 1-4 in Group A with one more game against 1-3 Luxembourg still to play. If they win that game, they'll go on to play Belgium, the winner of Group B, in the knockout rounds. If they lose, they'll play in "classification games" with the other bottom teams (5th and 6th place in each group) to determine the finishing order for 9th-through-12th place.
Romania beat Luxembourg behind a stellar performance from Olah, and now it moves on to the knockout round as a 4-seed in Group A to face Belgium, the winner of Group B on Friday. Olah is pumped:
QUARTERFINALS!!!! Romania vs. Belgium Let's gooooooooooo!!!!!
— Alexandru Olah (@Alexandru_Olah) July 19, 2013
Really, this doesn't mean anything, but it's the summer, so it's nice to get a glimpse of actual basketball. This certainly isn't Big Ten competition, and Romania plays in Division B, so Olah isn't even playing against the best teams in Europe. The real test will come when Olah returns home and tries to fit into Chris Collins' system. As multiple recruits have stated, Collins has told them that he plans to run the floor, meaning Olah will need to be in better shape than he was last year. He has reportedly lost some weight, so that's good news for NU. If he can be more agile on defense and put together more of an offensive game in the post, he could have a breakout season as a sophomore, but those are big "ifs."
But it's mid-July, so there is plenty of time for Olah to improve before the start of the season. For now, he's basking in the spotlight as the star of Romania's basketball future. And regardless of how the Romanians finish, they've at least picked up some fans in Evanston over the past two years.