The idea of Northwestern as a potential college destination is a murky topic for Gavin Skelly to discuss. He has not received an offer from the Wildcats, and even with that formal invitation still hanging in the air, Skelly considers NU one of his top five schools.
An offer could be on the way come August, once Skelly finishes up a pair of AAU Tournaments Northwestern coaches promised to attend. The first is the Adidas Invitational, hosted this week in Indianapolis; Skelly and his team, Team Work, will also attend the 17U Nationals in Orlando at the end of the month. Skelly believes the Wildcats will decide whether or not to extend an offer based on his performance in those two Tournaments.
As such, Skelly understands full well the weight of importance the next few weeks could bear on his college future.
“It’s a big deal for sure,” he said.
Not all of that sentiment is rooted in NU. Other high-major programs will be watching – including Notre Dame and Stanford, both of whom have shown increased interest in Skelly recently – and once the calendar flips to August, Skelly plans to ask interested schools about potential offers, reassess his options and pare down his double-digit offer list to a manageable trio of finalists.
“I want to commit before my senior year,” he said. “I’m going to try and get it down to three schools by August.”
A June visit to Northwestern’s campus turned Skelly’s already strong attraction to NU – stemming from contact with coaches going back as far as three months ago – into one of his favorite regarded prospective landing spots. Skelly toured campus and the Lake Michigan shoreline, spoke with coaches, and connected with Chris Collins.
When discussing how Skelly could mold his versatile game to fit Collins’ style of play, Collins told Skelly -- a bouncy forward with the size to bang inside and the mid-range shooting touch to penetrate from the wing – that he envisions him backing down opposing forwards, working from the mid-range and penetrating from the perimeter in equal measure. Skelly's range of skills might obscure your notion of his listed position, center. That's because Skelly, when he joins the college ranks, expects to attack and defend from a variety of spots on the court. The traditional rigidity of a center's positional conventions (the back-to-the-basket, paint-restricted, plodding big man) doesn't apply.
“He said I could be used in a lot of different ways,” Skelly said. “For me, it depends on the game situation. I prefer to be able to score from different spots.”
The one aspect of his game Skelly is trying to refine – in the interest of improving the low-post aspect of his skill set – is getting tougher. His chosen method of training is unique but intuitive: Skelly has his father check him with football pads while attempting post moves and layups.
“That’s definitely the biggest thing I need before I get to the college level,” he said. “I want to be physically tougher.”
When asked why he views Northwestern as one of his favorite schools, Skelly couldn’t have been any more elementary with his response. “The basketball and the academics, honestly.” To Skelly’s credit, he made mention later of the allure of the Big Ten, which – when compared to his current list of offers, mid and low-majors all – distinguishes the Wildcats from the rest.
Visiting campus and talking to coaches, particularly Collins and assistant Patrick Baldwin, had already convinced Skelly Northwestern was moving in the right direction. “I like what Coach Collins is doing. It’s like a whole new program, whole new offense, whole new team.” Hearing about the commitment of four-star forward Vic Law for the very first time elicited a more jubilant response. “Really?! Wow, that’s great!,” he exclaimed.
An early top-five placement on his college list reflects Skelly’s strong interest in the Wildcats – and that’s without receiving a scholarship offer. Skelly might be able to erase that caveat at some point over the next month, and his recruitment with the Northwestern should only intensify from there.
School: Westlake (OH)
AAU: Team Work
Other offers: Akron, Bowling Green, Bucknell, Buffalo, Cleveland State, Dartmouth, Elon, Kent State, Miami (OH), Oakland, Ohio, Toledo, William & Mary, Winthrop, Wright State
Notes: Starting to receive Big Ten and high-major interest including Northwestern, Michigan, Notre Dame, Stanford and Creighton, among others