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Bryant McIntosh's Vision

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Coined as one of the chosen few poised to lead a basketball program to new heights, Bryant McIntosh has already done so back home in Greensburg, Indiana.

Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

The same freshman guard who supplanted an established senior captain for the starting point guard spot is now the center of attention and no one, not the sparse Welsh-Ryan Arena crowd nor his teammates can take their eyes off Bryant McIntosh.


The pre-second-half huddle surrounding Northwestern head coach Chris Collins breaks with his Wildcats up 33 points over Division-II McKendree. The second-half starters slowly take off their warmups and maneuver themselves out on to the court. Before they get too far away from the sideline, they all stop.

They turn and look at the lanky point guard who scored nine points and dished out eight assists in the opening 20 minutes, pacing the Wildcats to 57 first-half points.

The same freshman guard who supplanted an established senior captain for the starting point guard spot is now the center of attention and no one, not the sparse Welsh-Ryan Arena crowd nor his teammates can take their eyes off Bryant McIntosh. Maybe it's the way he twisted his way through defenders on the way to easy layups, or the way he calmly steps into and knocks down smooth jumpers.

Among many, eight eyes in particular are focused on him in a huddle near midcourt. Two belong to JerShon Cobb, a senior captain who comes into the season as the team's best all-around player, barring an injury setback. Two belong to center Alex Olah, a player who has started 61 of the 64 games he's played at Northwestern. Two more belong to Sanjay Lumpkin, the undersized post defender whose energy and will outweigh his offensive skills. The last two, positioned directly to the guard's left, are the eyes that belong to what is widely considered the future of Northwestern basketball, heralded freshman forward Vic Law.

The baby-faced guard commands their attention.

"You're a point guard. You have to communicate," he says after the game. "I just wanted to make sure we had our energy. We didn't want to take a step back, you know. We wanted to improve every minute we got."

McIntosh has learned to value his minutes, even if they do come in blowouts. During his senior year of high school in Greensburg, Indiana, his team went 28-1 on its way to a second-straight state championship. The Pirates won their games by over 30 points per contest that season and McIntosh says he rarely played in the second halves of games.

In the lead-up to the 2014-2015 Northwestern basketball season, all the talk was about the new group of freshmen Collins brought in to spark a program lacking one for so long. Law was always mentioned as the leader of the group, the first of the five to commit and when the small-town guard was ever mentioned along with him, it was always Law and McIntosh, if he was mentioned at all.

Does it even matter that he won back-to-back state championships and lost just three games in his sophomore, junior and senior years of high school? Law is still the crown jewel. The four-star recruit. The hometown hero from Chicago.

But 235 miles southeast of Chicago, Bryant McIntosh has already been the hometown hero.

greensburg-court-tree
The famous courthouse in Greensburg, Indiana

Greensburg, Indiana is home to just over 11,000 people and is most famous for housing a courthouse with a tree growing out of it.

Seriously.

Its high school basketball program was average in the hoops-crazed landscape that is the Hoosier State. When head coach Stacy Meyer took over in 2006, things eventually started to turn around. But McIntosh's teams were a whole different animal.

"We had a really good team, all together. We had four Division-I athletes and for a school like that, that was kind of an odd situation to actually have that many athletes," McIntosh says at an early-November practice. "Honestly, I can't tell you the last time we had one Division-I athlete in the past 15 years."

Before 2013, no Greensburg sports team had ever won a state championship and no basketball team from Decatur County had even made a state finals appearance since 1931.

Every tweet from InsideNU that mentions McIntosh's name is immediately favorited and retweeted by an army of followers from Southeastern Indiana, many sporting McIntosh as their last name. The community hasn't forgotten what McIntosh and his teammates had done for them and it doesn't seem like they'll be letting go any time soon.

During the team's second title run in 2014, a story from WTHR in Indianapolis contained the following:

Once again this March, the high school basketball team is the talk of the town. At Stories Restaurant on the town square, the breaded tenderloin is as good as the Greensburg basketball team, and the Pirates make the townspeople proud.

"Their chests are popping out," said Don Storie, co-owner of Stories Restaurant, which opened in 1977. "They're tickled to death for all the kids and for all the acclaim it brings to the town itself."

"If we go on away trips, we usually have the biggest crowd, bigger than the home team's crowd," said Pirates coach Stacy Meyer, a Greensburg graduate himself. "They've really rallied behind these kids. We're a small town. Basketball is still important to us."

"It's just someplace for everybody to rally behind and support," said Greensburg senior Bryant McIntosh, Northwestern basketball recruit. "I think it helps that we're a pretty good group of kids that everyone enjoys seeing be successful."

macintosh-pass
Caylor Arnold-USA TODAY Sports

Although he now plays in Evanston, a far cry from where he grew up, many of the the eyes that watched him so closely will continue to do so.

During McIntosh's eighth grade and freshman years, he lived with his grandparents, Susan and Randy Polston, because, as he explains, his grandmother was sick.

As his grandmother continued to battle, it became clearer that throughout her grandson's recruitment she fell more and more in love with Northwestern, especially after she attended one of McIntosh's visits to campus.

Northwestern assistant coach Armon Gates, who led the recruitment of McIntosh, built a strong relationship with McIntosh's grandparents, often checking in on how she was doing.

All that led to the now-acclaimed commitment reveal, where McIntosh slid a couple of poker chips adorned with "All" and a Northwestern "N" across the table to Collins. It was his grandmother's idea.

While the physical distance may be greater, McIntosh says his loved ones will always be close by.

"They'll be up here quite a bit," he says.

McIntosh's choice to de-commit from Indiana State in the spring of 2013 and eventually sign with Northwestern over another local school in Purdue, among others, a few months later was a decision that would mean leaving the celebrity and comfort he built over the past three years in Southeast Indiana.

It meant starting over, joining in on the journey Collins and his staff sold him on. A journey with the end goal of turning a program around, just as he did in Greensburg.