After glimpses of success last season, a new era of Northwestern basketball continues in 2014/15, and it will perhaps be the most anticipated campaign yet. And that’s in large part due to one of the most heralded freshman classes the program has ever signed.
The members of that five-man class have already been welcomed to campus, and every day, their much-discussed prospects for this coming season (and for their careers) become closer to reality. The season remains months away, but let’s take a look at what we can expect from each of the five incoming freshman during their first year on campus.
Law is a 6-foot-7 small forward, and is the poster boy for this class. He’s a long, athletic wing player, and during his recruitment, Chris Collins apparently showed him clips of Gerald Henderson at Duke as an example of what Law could be. He was also heavily recruited by Shaka Smart and VCU, so that should tell you a bit about the type of player – and specifically defender – that he is.
But in year one, it’s important to temper expectations – not just for Law, but for this whole class. Law’s game is an unfinished product, and his offensive game especially will need some polishing. A major key offensively in year one will be his outside shot. Law will no longer be able to dominate games with sheer athleticism, so he must diversify his scoring. That will be what makes or breaks his freshman season in the eyes of fans.
Law should play a lot though, and he likely will start. He’s going to push Sanjay Lumpkin, and when Northwestern goes to a small lineup, Law could also see time as the four because of his length and rebounding prowess. He may defer to the likes of Tre Demps, JerShon Cobb and Alex Olah on offense, but expect him to be a significant contributor to this team, especially on defense.
This class, just like this team, is guard-heavy, and McIntosh, a 6-foot-3 combo guard from Indiana, is perhaps the leader of the pack. Scouts love his basketball IQ – Collins surely will too – and his feel for the game. He can also shoot the three-ball, and because of his size, should be able to defend either guard position at the college level.
Is there a chance that he starts at point guard? Maybe. He’s one of four options for the role, given that Cobb and Demps both saw time there last season, and Dave Sobolewski, now a senior, figures to be a team leader. But basketball-wise, McIntosh might be the best fit for Northwestern’s system.
Like Law, it’s not crazy to think that McIntosh can be an important player as a freshman. But don’t expect him to score in double figures or put the Wildcats on his shoulders just yet.
At 6-foot flat, Vassar is the explosive, jitter-bug athlete at the point guard position that Northwestern has lacked in recent years. His quickness and ability to run a fast break could be just what Chris Collins needs to jumpstart the transition to a more up-tempo offense.
But Vassar is raw, and that might hold him back in year one. He could be a liability in the half-court offense, because his jump shot needs work, and he can play out of control at times. He could develop into an influential player, but because of his inexperience, especially as a point guard, Collins might not trust him as anything more than a role player in his first season.
Skelly, a 6-foot-8 stretch four, should have a role to play on this NU team from the jump. Outside of Olah, there was a lack of frontcourt presence last season, and that seemingly hasn’t changed going into 2014/15. So if nothing else, Skelly will be forced into playing time.
His biggest asset is his combination of size and athleticism. He moves well for a power forward, can run the floor, and rebounds reasonably well. His offensive game is unrefined, and in high school, he tended to not get the most out of his physical tools, but just based on those physical tools, he should find a niche right away in Collins’ system if he can put on some weight. Just don’t expect him to be a scorer.
Lindsay is a long, 6-foot-5 shooting guard from Chicagoland. He'll have some competition at guard, since Cobb and Demps should once again see 30-plus minutes per game, and it’s their positions that Lindsay would occupy.
He’s a standout shooter, but otherwise, needs to develop the other facets of his game – primarily his strength and ball-handling – before he gets a look from Collins as a rotation player this year. However, early word out of practice is that he's looked good, and he could surprise some people this year.