JerShon Cobb has missed 11 games this year, and 51 over the past three years due to a combination of injuries and academic issues. But he has made sure Tuesday night, his senior night, won't be number 52.
He'll be sure to lace up his Under Armours rather than slide into dress shoes, and he'll don his No. 23 uniform rather than a shirt and tie for his last game at Welsh-Ryan Arena.
"These fans have been through a lot with me," Cobb says. "I want to show my appreciation and play out my last night at Welsh-Ryan."
Even when sidelined this year, Cobb has been closely involved with the games. He has often been one of the first players to hop up from the bench (even in his walking boot) during timeouts and greet teammates with high-fives or fist bumps. It's all been part of a long learning experience in Evanston.
"[I've become a leader by] taking things from guys like Juice [Thompson], [John] Shurna, Drew [Crawford] and just incorporating it in my own way with this team," he says.
So when he's accompanied tomorrow night by his parents, aunt, and grandmother for senior night, perhaps Cobb won't be looking to play 30-plus minutes or get double-digit shot attempts like he may have imagined his senior night to be like when he walked onto campus five years ago. But that's not to say he hasn't grown as a person during his time in Evanston. While battling the injury bug this year, Cobb has been able to fill the role as mentor for Northwestern's freshman class.
"It's been incredible seeing where they were and seeing where they are now," he says. "I got front row seats to see their growth."
Chris Collins had said multiple times throughout the year that it would have been easy for Cobb to shut it down. The team is, at this point, playing for pride and trying to spoil other teams' NCAA Tournament aspirations. But for Cobb, it was a matter of personal pride and respect.
"Sometimes I felt like maybe I should let it go," he says. "But I couldn't do that to my teammates and my family."
Collins empathizes with Cobb's struggles with injuries. Collins missed a lot of his junior year at Duke due to injury, and he explained that he knows the struggle Cobb has gone through.
"I've felt horrible for him this whole year because he hasn't been healthy all year long," the second year head coach says. "I wanted so badly for him to be in the position to have a great senior year and really help the younger guys out. With a healthy JerShon, we definitely would have won more games."
As his career winds down, Cobb could look back and wonder at what could have been. He has experienced more ups and downs than almost any other basketball player: suspension, injury, coaching change and a program still looking for consistent success. When his body was sound, he was a nightmare to defend: a sharpshooter with enough quickness, athleticism and toughness to slash to the basket and score. When it wasn't, as was the case far too often, the most he could do was help out the younger players, a role he wholeheartedly embraced this year.
But despite sitting out far more than he ever could have wanted, JerShon Cobb looks back and is, above all else, thankful.
"There's been a lot of adversity," he says. "But on the other side of it, I feel like I've become a man here and I really appreciate everybody and everything I've been through here."