When Vic Law called Chris Collins on July 4th to notify him he would become Northwestern’s first commitment of 2014, his choice came with a promise. Not only would Law represent arguably the most highly-touted recruit of recent Wildcats hoops history, he would instantly go from highly-sought after recruit to avid recruiter, pledging to lure other local prospects and help build a strong foundation in Collins’ inaugural prospect haul.
Shortly after making his decision, Law told Teddy Greenstein of the Chicago Tribune, “I will be a big recruiter for Northwestern,” he said. “I’ll get some guys.”
With that announcement, the conversation quickly shifted from how Law – a 6-foot-7 forward with the ability to score both from the wing and the post, guard multiple positions, crash the glass and handle the ball effectively -- would help Northwestern on the court to which players he would be able to convince to join him in Evanston.
People were excited about Northwestern landing its first top-75 recruit in two decades (center Evan Eschmeyer signed with NU in 1993), but the possibility of what came next – the potential for other top local prospects to follow Law’s lead –sparked new expectations of what the Wildcats, wielding more players in Law’s feted mold, could one day become.
Well, good news, because Law is about as devoted a Wildcats salesman as any NU hoops fan could reasonably hope for.
Half of Law’s pitch is self-evident; the four-star forward doesn’t need to sell a 17-year-old high school player from Chicago on the benefits of playing with one of the area’s most versatile and adaptable forwards. Law can attract other players by doing the same thing that made him such a widely celebrated verbal commitment in the first place: be good at basketball.
“First of all, great players like playing with great players,” Law said last week.
The other half is more proactive. Saying Law is “committed” to the Wildcats would be the technically correct term, but his emotional fervor goes far beyond anything constituting a typical verbal pledge. Law is an “enthusiastic” Wildcats representative – from his own words to the NU gear he sports at grassroots events to the image of Willie the Wildcat plastered on his Twitter profile. He pushes the benefits of becoming a Wildcat to players he runs across on the AAU circuit – and no prospect, no matter how touted or seemingly uninterested in NU, is out of reach.
Take his recent experience at the 2013 Reebok Classic Breakout at Philadelphia University, where Law matched up against top-30 player Devin Robinson, who holds scholarship offers from Indiana, Notre Dame, UConn, Florida State and other top programs. After dominating Robinson in the sort of one-on-one matchup that matters far more as far as scouts and onlooking coaches are concerned than any semblance of team-oriented 5-on-5 competition, Law used his convincing performance as an occasion to sell the program he’ll be joining one year from now.
“He’s trying to recruit me,” Robinson told Luke Winn in last week’s SI.com feature. “but…I don’t know about that.”
A more realistic target is Tyler Ulis, a 5-foot-8 point guard from Marian Catholic (Ill.) who continues to rise in national rankings and who recently included Northwestern (as well as Florida State, USC, Purdue, DePaul, Michigan State and Iowa) on his list of top-seven schools. He is considered a top-50 prospect by most national services, and recently matched top-ranked point guard Tyus Jones step-for-step in a heated one-on-one showdown at the high-profile Peach Jam in Augusta, S.C. Law is friends with Ulis, and hopes to use the qualities that sold Law on NU – prestigious academics, a coaching staff with an impressive pedigree, the opportunity to help reboot a historically bottom-half Big Ten program – to persuade one of the nation’s most promising 2014 point guards.
Though he didn’t name any other players specifically, Law did mention others who contacted him with questions about Northwestern, and Law – to the surprise of absolutely no one – happily obliged their requests.
“I play with a lot of great players,” he said. “I’m very close to them. I talk to them here and there.”
The fervor with which Law pushes the Wildcats misses the point that Northwestern, according to Law, can basically sell itself. With its personable coaching staff, academic rigor and favorable proximity to Chicago, Law believes NU should be able to attract local players on its own merits, separate from the efforts of an engaging teenage salesman.
With minimal exception, for 13 years under Bill Carmody, the Wildcats recruiting efforts typically revolved around overlooked and/or athletically limited players. Northwestern landed one top-75 recruit under Carmody’s watch and was never able to dip into the surrounding Chicago recruiting grounds to pluck top in-state prospects. Getting Law was a start, but Collins and his staff still have plenty of work to do before cementing the Wildcats as a destination program for the area’s typically large share of top-100 players.
“With the coaching staff and the academic piece,” Law said. “I think Northwestern will be able to get players.”
Perceptions aren’t transformed in the midst of an offseason, and one top-75 prospect doesn’t signal the end of Northwestern’s historical inability to compete with the nation’s top programs for Chicago’s most talented recruits. Law is a start, and a promising one at that.
“Purple is in my blood now,” he said.
There is no immediate need for Law to convince other players to join his one-man Northwestern sales crew. Verbal commitments will suffice.