The 2016-2017 season is a crucial one for the Northwestern Wildcats and head coach Chris Collins. Collins enters his fourth year, and the general consensus is that his program has to show significant signs of progress in order to reach the ultimate goal of making the NCAA tournament by the target year of 2018, when his first recruiting class will all be seniors. Collins has high expectations of a talented bunch of players, and they’ll need to show his expectations are not unfounded. With that, we run through every player on the roster this season. Next up is another newcomer: guard Isiah Brown, a talented scorer from the Pacific Northwest.
Who he is:
Freshman | 6-foot-2 | 175 pounds | Seattle, WA
Brown is a former three-star recruit from Lakeside High School and chose Northwestern over Pac-12 school Washington and a host of other west coast programs. He was named the Gatorade Player of the Year in the state after a senior season in which he averaged 33.8 points per game. All of the story lines involving Brown concern his incredible scoring ability. He dropped nearly 2,400 points in high school, including multiple 50-point outbursts, and also put up huge numbers in AAU play. Brown is undersized compared to a typical Big Ten guard, but is a solid shooter and a crafty finisher in traffic. With Tre Demps now in Belgium, Brown’s ability to put the ball in the basket should benefit Northwestern.
Wow, that’s a fun highlight reel. As I’ve mentioned, Brown can flat-out score. He has a smooth jumper and range that extends well beyond the three-point line. Where he’s at his best, though, is inside the arc. Brown has a tight handle and can hit mid-range shots off the dribble, whether he’s pulling up, fading away, stepping back or using a variety of other moves. He also uses those ball-handling skills to get to the basket frequently. He showed the ability to convert on running floaters, a shot he’ll need to be able to hit over huge Big Ten frontcourt players. When Brown does get all the way to the basket, he is excellent at drawing fouls and finishing through contact. He rebounds deceptively well in regard to his position and size.
Given the nature of that highlight reel, we don’t yet know much about Brown’s weaknesses, meaning this is mostly speculation. The main thing that will likely give Brown struggles as a true freshman is his small stature. At just 6’2”, 175 lbs., he will have a tough time putting up numbers against bigger, stronger college guards, especially in conference play. Brown’s defense is also an unknown coming into the season. Brown was obviously very scoring-oriented in high school, but the fact that he averaged less than two assists per game as a senior is slightly concerning. He will need to develop better court vision and passing skills to become a complete guard. His shot selection will also be something to watch for.
Brown will absolutely have a role as a combo guard coming off the bench in 2016, according to Collins’ recent press conferences. His scoring ability has the potential to be extremely helpful to Northwestern in the post-Demps era. Brown’s presence should allow Collins to rest McIntosh more than he did last season since Brown is capable of playing the 1. I’m also excited to see him get minutes at the 2, because I think McIntosh’s playmaking skill set (#BMac4TheDime, anyone?) should mesh well with Brown’s shooting and finishing abilities. It may take a while for him to get accustomed to the college game, but don’t be surprised to see Brown getting some buckets this winter.