Northwestern held its men's basketball media day Tuesday afternoon, giving the media another opportunity to speak to players and coaches before an exhibition against Quincy on Nov. 5 and the season-opener Nov. 13 against UMass-Lowell.
Here's what Chris Collins had to say:
- Since he arrived in Evanston, Collins has made it a priority to build relationships with some of the leftovers from Bill Carmody's regime. Of the players still with the program -- seniors Tre Demps and Alex Olah and juniors Sanjay Lumpkin and Nate Taphorn (who never played for Carmody but was recruited by him) -- Collins continually pays tribute to them and their commitment in front of the media.
"Even though you can say they were recruited by a previous regime," Collins said, "they're our guys."
- A couple weeks ago, I wrote about how Collins' third season has no room for excuses and as he often does, he began to recap his first three years going through all the challenges his teams faced. In the first season, he explained, it was a "trainwreck" due to the adjustments of a new coach and because of JerShon Cobb's injuries. Last year, he said, getting the young players acclimated was a major challenge. This year, he started to say that it was going to be different, but still mentioned the youth of this team as a potential obstacle.
- Collins on the program's goals for postseason play:
"Every team has aspirations to do things in March, and I think we have those aspirations. If you don't have those aspirations, you shouldn't be playing or coaching... I don't want this team to carry the weight of what has or hasn't happened in this program's history. That's not fair... At the end of the day we'll get what we'll earn."
- At Big Ten Media Day, Collins mentioned that this roster, in his estimation, is similar to those of Iowa over the past couple seasons, due to a lot of depth. He repeated that sentiment Monday.
"This year, with our roster breakdown, we have 12 guys, 12 scholarship players. I really think that they're all Big Ten-caliber players... We can be a strength in numbers kind of team."
- Northwestern took a major step back defensively in 2014-15. According to KenPom, Northwestern's defense ranked No. 14 in the country. In '14-'15, the Wildcats defense ranked 165th. While Northwestern played almost exclusively man-to-man in Collins' first season, the team played a lot of zone in the last one. Collins said that he plans to mix up the defenses but that the man is improved. He won't abandon the zone because "I think it was good for us" last year.
- Collins added that Alex Olah played a lot of "tired minutes" last season. With the additions of Joey van Zegeren and Dererk Pardon, Collins expects Olah to be able to rest a bit more this season.
"He would look at me and ask for a sub," Collins said about Olah, "but I would just look the other way."
- In terms of the offense, Collins loves the versatility of freshman forward Aaron Falzon. Falzon, as expected, should be able to contribute right away.
"Aaron's shooting ability cannot be understated," Collins said. "I feel he's as good a catch-and-shoot player coming into college as there is in the country."
- Collins also made sure to give some love to Pardon, another freshman.
"Dererk has an enormously high upside," Collins said. "He has a 7-3 wingspan and can really run the floor... He's a different kind of big guy than we've had. He's mobile... He's even better than I thought he would be.
"But big guys are on a different timetable [than guards]."
- When the announcement of the tragic passing of Minnesota Timberwolves coach and president Flip Saunders was released on social media, Collins tweeted the following:
Was lucky to be coached by Flip in Twolves training camp. Terrific Coach and Person. Prayers to his Family! Sad Day! https://t.co/xe0mW6vyTu— Chris Collins (@coach_collins) October 25, 2015
On Monday, he went more in-depth on his relationship with Saunders:
"When I tried out with the NBA coming out of college, I tried out with the Timberwolves," Collins said. "I was around there for two months... [Saunders] was such an innovative coach. Some of the things I do offensively are plays that I learned from him. Even though I didn't make the team we stayed in touch... He was someone I considered a friend... [He taught me] there might be things you don't like about the job, but the passion about what you enjoy about it must outweigh it."
- Collins is full of stories about growing up around the 1970s Philadelphia 76ers and he dropped the following nugget. Here is the list of some of the children of players from those mid-'70s teams:
Collins, Mike Bibby, Tamika Catchings, Mike Dunleavy Jr. and Kobe Bryant.
- One last note, we were able to watch a bit of practice and the only thing that really jumped out (they were mostly drilling and running five-on-zero) was that Gavin Skelly was working with the wings and not the big men. Olah, van Zegeren and Pardon worked out together while Skelly drilled with Vic Law, Falzon, Taphorn and Lumpkin.