The biggest day in America's history just became one of the biggest days in Northwestern basketball history, as well. The Wildcats picked up a commitment from 4-star small forward Vic Law of Chicago's St. Rita, giving them what may very well be their biggest commitment ever from a Chicago area player. The news was first reported by Cavan Walsh of ChicagoHoops.com:
Victor Law has committed to Northwestern - Big get for Collins, Gates, and Baldwin
— Cavan Walsh (@cavwalsh) July 4, 2013
This is big for a number of reasons, but we'll start with Law, himself. Scout ranks him as a four-star, the No. 70 overall recruit in the country. Remember when former commit Jaren Sina was the best commit in program history? Law is better — maybe even a lot better. He's a versatile, 6-foot-7 forward who can run the floor. He's not a "Northwestern of the past era" kind of player — he had an offer from Bill Carmody, but he's a much higher-caliber recruit than the kind of player Carmody brought into the program — and he turned down Creighton, Dayton, Florida State, Illinois, West Virginia, VCU and Xavier, among others, to go to NU. Obviously, recruiting rankings can be wrong, but there's no denying Law's talent and his ability to be a program-changer from the minute he steps on the floor at NU.
Law should bring a lot to NU, basketball-wise, but more importantly, it finally gives the Wildcats a marquee recruit from the Chicago area. Chicago is the most fertile recruiting ground in the country, but NU has struggled to make an impact there. The Wildcats rarely got their name in the conversation under Carmody, but Chris Collins has been making an effort to get NU's name in the picture with just about anyone he can — most notably, Law, Tyler Ulis and Paul White. Collins' staff is very Chicago-centric. NU's recruiting in the city figured to take a bit of a hit after Tavaras Hardy left for Georgetown, but the rest of the staff has plenty of Chicago ties, too. Collins has plenty of connections to the area from his Duke years, Patrick Baldwin is a former NU player and Loyola assistant, Armon Gates is a former Loyola assistant and Brian James coached at Chicago-area high school Glenbrook North. Finally, the hard Chicago push since the staff came together has paid off.
But this isn't just about one player. Law will target some other class of 2014 recruits to come to NU, but most of all, this is about building a pipeline for the future. It's amazing how much of an impact one domino can have. NU was never seen as much of a destination for Chicago area kids, but when a player the caliber of Law commits, that raises some eyebrows, gets some others interested, and before you know it, it may not be a surprise when top caliber recruits give NU serious consideration. Of course, that's a long ways away, but for it to ever happen, NU had to get over the hump.
Collins needed to find the perfect player for this to work. He needed to find a top-flight kid who doesn't care about name brands, someone who cares about academics and doesn't care about NU's run-down facilities. He needed to find a player who will be willing to take the chance of becoming "the guy who turned everything around," a player who wants to build something rather than continue a tradition of excellence — it's harder to find those players than you might think. He found that — the perfect fit — in Law.
There are still a lot of "mountains" NU must climb over on its way to becoming a legitimate program (i.e. make the NCAA Tournament). But Law's commitment is the first major accomplishment for a staff that had been making a lot of noise, but hadn't yet completely proven itself. This is as much of a "program changer" as a commitment can be, and just a few months into his tenure as NU's head coach, Collins is well on his way toward making Northwestern a legitimate basketball program and building a legitimate recruiting presence in Chicago.