Yesterday, part one of these end-of-season player grades focused on Northwestern's six guards. Today, in part two, we look at the forwards and centers:
Averages: 11.7 points, 6.9 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 1.8 blocks, 1.7 turnovers, 48.6% FG, 29.4 minutes
The Good: Olah's remarkable improvement continued this year as he improved in nearly every relevant category. There were some games in which Olah was simply dominant (He averaged 23.5 points and 9.5 rebounds in the two games against Michigan) particularly in match-ups where he was able to use his size advantage. After struggling to keep up with more mobile bigs, Olah was particularly effective defensively after Northwestern switched to the zone defense that allowed him to stay close to the basket and focus his defensive efforts on rim protection. Olah was once again an effective shot-blocker (his 7.4% block percentage was good for 84th best in the country) and is now the record-holder for Northwestern in that category. He showed an improved jumper this year and shot an excellent 74.8% from the free throw line, though he struggled to make three pointers, and does possess a soft shooting touch for a player of his size.
The Not-so-good: Olah was often passive and tended to disappear during games. Northwestern was at their best when he was playing well and was involved early, and that simply didn't happen as often as it should have. While he was able to exploit smaller defenders, Olah often struggled against centers closer to his own size. In the home loss to Purdue, for example, Olah posted 4 points and 1 rebound and was thoroughly outplayed by A.J. Hammons. Olah still isn't in good enough shape to play as many minutes as Collins would want him to, and Northwestern's defense struggled when he wasn't on the floor as the team didn't possess any other real rim protector. He continues to bring the ball down to waist level way more than he should, allowing smaller players to go for the strip.
The Takeaway: Olah was awesome at times and invisible at other times. Like Demps, Olah earned an Honorable Mention All-Big Ten selection and was one of the Big Ten's best centers when he was on his game. He was particularly vital to this team because his backups weren't contributors on the offensive end and didn't provide any rim protection. Much-needed frontline reinforcements will arrive in Evanston next season in the form of Derek Pardon, Aaron Falzon and Joey van Zegeren, which should benefit Olah.
Averages: 7.0 points, 4.8 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 1.5 turnovers, 38.7% FG, 35.5% 3FG
The Good: Law struggled mightily early and seemed to be both unsure of himself and his place in this Northwestern offense, but a hot-shooting night against Minnesota sparked a late-season resurgence. Most expected Law to be a slasher, but he was instead most effective as a three-point shooter, particularly down the stretch, where he shot 58% from behind the arc in Northwestern's last seven games. Law is an impressive leaper and was one of Northwestern's best rebounders throughout the season. He also showed an ability to defend multiple positions and his future projects well on that end of the floor. Law admitted that he didn't come into the season with the proper mindset and didn't prepare adequately, which is less than ideal, but the fact that he admitted to doing so and was able to refocus shows maturity and humility.
The Not-so-good: Many, including myself, placed unrealistic expectations on Law solely based on the fact that he was a four-star recruit and was billed as a program-changer. Law was tentative and generally ineffective for the first half of the season. He couldn't get into the lane, he couldn't connect on his three pointers and he took way too many long-range twos. Law is still incredibly skinny and would do well to add significant muscle during the offseason, as he wasn't able to bang inside despite his 6-foot-7 frame.
The Takeaway: If Law didn't come to Northwestern with such steep expectations, we'd likely view his freshman season as a solid one- 7 points and 5 rebounds are solid contributions for a freshman, and his late season play leaves room for optimism regarding next season. But Law did have those expectations, so it's difficult not to be at least a bit disappointed with how his first season in Evanston played out. It would have been easy for him to pack it in after the disappointing start he had, but Law worked diligently to become a solid contributor and should only improve and he gets older and more physically mature.
Averages: 4.3 points, 3.8 rebounds, .8 assists, .8 turnovers 52.6% FG, 37.1% 3FG
The Good: The contributions that Lumpkin makes to Northwestern will never show up on a stat sheet. He's the quintessential role player whose primary role is to play tough defense and, above all, hustle. Lumpkin displayed an improved three-point shot this year; his percentage from behind the arc improved from 26% last year to 37% this season, and he didn't hesitate when an open three-pointer presented itself. Lumpkin led Northwestern in shooting percentage and showed overall improvement on that end of the floor. He spent most of his effort on the defensive end and was a pesky defender who got under his opponents skin more than once.
The Not-so-good: Lumpkin is very limited on the offensive end, and Northwestern seems to almost be playing 4-on-5 on that end of the floor when he is in the game. Lumpkin scored 0 points in 8 out of 10 games during one stretch of the season. Sure, a team can always benefit from a hustle, defense first guy, but in an ideal world he'd be able to contribute more offensively than Sanjay Lumpkin does.
The Takeaway: Collins likes Lumpkin because he does all the little things, but it'll be interesting to see how much playing time he gets next season when Northwestern will be much deeper at the forward position. Lumpkin does his best on the defensive end while usually guarding bigger players and his effort is always top-notch, but he's simply not talented enough on offense to ever provide meaningful contributions on that end of the floor. Still, if Lumpkin can contribute to excel defensively and continue his improved three-point shooting, he'll likely still be a rotation piece going forward.
Averages: 4.1 points, 1.1 rebounds, .5 assists, .3 turnovers, 52.9% FG, 50.0% 3FG
The Good: That three point percentage just jumps off the page. Taphorn was torrid from behind the arc all year and forced defenses to be aware of his presence whenever he was on the floor. Taphorn put on 20 or so pounds of muscle between his freshman and sophomore seasons, and his added strength allowed him to be a much improved defender. The offense was simply better when Taphorn was on the floor, and his return to the lineup after missing seven games with a foot fracture perfectly coincided with the beginning of Northwestern's four-game winning streak.
The Not-so-good: Taphorn struggled with injuries and while his defense was better than a year ago, he's still not solid enough on that end to earn significant minutes. Taphorn is also fairly one dimensional the offensive end of the floor, as he's only really a threat to score in catch-and-shoot situations.
The Takeaway: There's always playing time to be found for players who can shoot the lights out, and Nathan Taphorn qualifies as such a player. He'll likely not start many, if any, games at Northwestern, but if he can continue to shoot the three pointer this well he'll continue to find playing time.
Averages: 1.4 points, 1.9 rebounds, .5 assists, .6 blocks, 48.5% FG, 7.2 minutes
The Good: Skelly provided good energy off the bench as a backup for Alex Olah. He's perhaps the most physically developed of this year's freshman, which allowed him to defend in the post despite his relatively undersized 6-foot-8 frame. That strength also allowed him to finish in traffic reasonably well. Skelly has a nose for the basketball and his energy was often infectious; when he'd make a block or convert and and-one, his teammates were visibly fired up.
The Not-so-good: Like Olah's other backup, Jeremiah Kresiberg, Skelly is raw offensively. He's not skilled enough in the low post to be effective and he's yet to develop an adequate jump-shot.
The Takeaway: If there's one player who might see his minutes diminish next year, it might be Skelly, as Aaron Falzon, Derek Pardon and Joey Van Zegeren will compete with him for minutes.
Averages: 1.0 points, 1.2 rebounds, .2 assists, .1 blocks, 44.4% FG, 6.5 minutes
The Good: A graduate transfer of whom little was expected, Jeremiah Kreisberg always gave it his all and was an adequate rebounder. Kreisberg is a smart player and a smart human (he graduated from Yale last year and is pursuing a graduate degree in Kellogg, Northwestern's business school), and he was able to give Alex Olah some much needed rest in Big Ten play.
The Not-so-good: Kreisberg couldn't do much offensively and lacked the lateral quickness to be an effective defender. He saw his minutes diminish as the season went on as Collins and his staff grew to prefer Gavin Skelly.
The Takeaway: Kresiberg isn't a player you're likely to remember in 10 (or maybe even five) years, but it's difficult to have a real impact on a program as a graduate transfer. Kresiberg makes the most of his physical abilities and is reportedly pursuing a professional basketball career in Israel.