Heading into the 2015 season, Northwestern features one of its deepest teams in years. While head coach Chris Collins has said his preference would be to play only eight or nine players, he acknowledges that he might have to coach this Northwestern team a lot like Iowa's Fran McCaffery has coached in recent years, using a deep bench. At least at the onset, few players -- other than the Wildcats' established starters -- have appeared to separate themselves. Thus, we are going in-depth on each of Northwestern's scholarship players, providing insight into each players' potential role.
Next, we look at freshman forward Dererk Pardon:
A three-star recruit from Cleveland, Pardon chose Northwestern over Dayton, Pittsburgh and Xavier. According to 247 Sports, Pardon was the lowest-rated commit in Northwestern's 2015 recruiting class behind guard Jordan Ash and fellow forward Aaron Falzon. Pardon won Division III State Championships in Ohio his sophomore and senior seasons and was runner-up his junior year at Villa Angela-St. Joseph. As a senior, he averaged 12.3 points and 11 rebounds per game while also blocking a school-record 101 shots.
From his highlight tape, it's clear Pardon loves to do two things: two-handed dunks and block shots. He is athletic enough to run the floor and catch passes in transition and finish strongly at the rim. His long wingspan allows him to block shots of players that might be a little bit taller than him. He showed some nice touch from within ten feet. He also had a few post moves such as a baby hook and spin move but they were all going left, which won't fly at the next level.
The lefty jump shot is not as smooth as you'd like it to be, even though Pardon hit a few in the highlight tape. But, and this goes for all highlight tapes, they pick and choose the best aspects of a player's game. Thus, if the extent of Pardon's range really is 10 feet, that's really going to have to improve. As mentioned above, all of his post moves went left, which is fine when you're better than everyone in high school, but veteran players in college will sniff that tendency out quickly.
Alex Olah feature
Pardon is similar to fellow Ohio-native Gavin Skelly, in that neither have refined offensive games, but are gifted athletically. Therefore, I think Skelly could be a good model for Pardon in terms of role. The freshman will be battling the sophomore for minutes behind Alex Olah and Joey van Zegeren as the second big man off the bench. And while Pardon is a center, perhaps he could see time at power forward in two-big man lineups.
What to expect
Pardon might not be ready for Big Ten play, but in non-conference, he should get a few opportunities. If Northwestern continues to stay in a 2-3 zone, Pardon could be effective manning the middle with his shot-blocking and rebounding prowess. The battle between him and Skelly for minutes is an interesting storyline to watch as the season develops.