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Who is Northwestern target Joey van Zegeren?

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The athletically-gifted big man could play next year and offer support on the boards for a team that sorely needs some.

Michael Shroyer-USA TODAY Sports

Former Virginia Tech Hokie Joey van Zegeren watched Northwestern defeat Iowa on Sunday at Welsh-Ryan Arena as the Wildcats seem to be preparing to make a push for the athletically-gifted big man. Van Zegeren, a graduate transfer, left the Virginia Tech program earlier this year after a falling out with coach Buzz Williams, but is set to graduate this spring, which would make him immediately eligible.

So who is van Zegeren? Why does Chris Collins want him? And why is he leaving Virginia Tech?

According to Sports Illustrated, van Zegeren was initially suspended from the Virginia Tech team on Jan. 2 due to "a lack of discipline and self-control at practice" and then, as first reported by CBS Sports, was permanently removed from the team on Jan. 22. At the time of his dismissal, he was averaging 9.8 points and 5.3 rebounds per contest in just over 20 minutes per game.

The big man from the Netherlands has great athleticism and can really jump. He has shown great potential at times, including an 18-point, 10-rebound performance in just 22 minutes against Penn State on Dec. 3. He also put up 15 and 6 in 25 minutes against a very good Northern Iowa team earlier in the year in a blowout loss.

Van Zegeren showed considerable improvement in each of his three years in Blacksburg. In his freshman year, he averaged just 3.3 points and 3.1 rebounds in 14.6 minutes. He upped those averages to 6.4 and 5.0 the next year while playing 22.0 minutes per game, and he was expected to be a big part of this year’s Hokie team. His points and rebounds were up yet again this year, as shown above, but his minutes were down a little (20.4). Still, his field goal percentage skyrocketed to 60 percent, better than his freshman mark of 52.4 percent and his sophomore mark of 50.0 percent.

Van Zegeren is a great jumper and a good energy guy. He averaged about a block per game and only around three fouls per game for his career. At 6-foot-10, he can be an effective rim protector and rebounder, but his offensive game still needs some polishing up.

The negatives to van Zegeren? Obviously the off-the-court issues might spark some concern. Perhaps one reason for van Zegeren’s frustration was he began to lose minutes to freshmen Shane Henry and Satchel Pierce, two key pieces of Buzz Williams’ rebuilding effort for a team that has struggled over the past few seasons.

A second negative is his chronically poor free throw shooting. He shot 31.7 percent from the line this year, and he was actually best his freshman year at 45.5 percent.

Overall, van Zegeren would provide Northwestern with a much-needed true backup big man for Alex Olah. With Jeremiah Kreisberg leaving, that backup spot will be open, and Dererk Pardon and Aaron Falzon both project as power forwards, not centers. Gavin Skelly might still need another year to really figure into things. Van Zegeren would be an immediate upgrade over Kreisberg as far as athleticism goes, and he provides a better presence on the offensive and defensive ends.

Additionally, van Zegeren would give Chris Collins some interesting options as far as lineups go. A popular lineup this year has been four guards (McIntosh, Demps, Lindsey, Cobb/Sobolewski) with Olah, but Collins could hypothetically experiment with Olah and van Zegeren together against bigger teams. Northwestern’s offensive rebounding percentage ranks 257th in Division I college basketball, and a bigger lineup with van Zegeren could add another dimension to the offense and help NU generate more--and likely better--shots.