In early July, Northwestern’s two best players were absent from practice. The reason wasn’t injury or any other misfortune, though. Rather, junior point guard Bryant McIntosh and redshirt sophomore forward Vic Law were participating in camps with some of the best collegiate players in America at Stephen Curry’s SC30 Select Camp and the Under Armour All-American camp, respectively.
For McIntosh, it was his second year with the back-to-back NBA MVP. Curry took more of a backseat to analyze the players rather than play with them—it was just weeks after the grueling NBA season had concluded—as he had the first year. It allowed him the opportunity to provide close critique of the participants and focus on specific areas of every players’ game.
“He wanted me to create more space for a jump shot and make plays in the lane,” McIntosh told Inside NU. “Those are things that will really help me be more efficient.”
The heady Wildcat point guard got to compete against some of the best guards in the nation, including Davidson’s standout scorer Jack Gibbs, Notre Dame’s 6-foot-6 do-it-all Steve Vasturia, and Washington’s incoming star freshman Markelle Fultz. McIntosh said Fultz, an explosive athlete and a consensus Top 10 recruit in the Class of 2016, was his most difficult matchup.
McIntosh has set his focus this offseason on efficiency.
“I think in a game you can always be more efficient taking care of the ball, making the right play, not using so many dribbles, just being more efficient in everything I do.”
Curry, who struggled down the stretch in the Finals, was able to help him with that.
“His personality is very great for what he does for a living,” McIntosh said. “For example, he’s talking to us about making the right play, decision-making and he can joke about some of the mistakes he made. You shouldn’t through a behind-the-back pass in Game 7. At the time it hurt, but to be able to let it go and move on, it’s pretty incredible he’s able to do that.”
For Law, it was just a joy to be back on the court. About seven months removed from shoulder surgery, Law laced them up in Charlotte, NC for the first time in a team atmosphere. While it’s a long process to transition from individual drills to five-on-five basketball, Law was pleased with his overall performance.
“For the most part, the best thing about it was the competition and learning new things from new, better players,” he told Inside NU. “Playing at a camp like that, you’re playing with the best players from the best teams. You get a new mix of basketball, you pick up new things and the competition was really good.”
Law’s main competition came from reigning NCAA champion Josh Hart of Villanova as well as from Kyle Kuzma of Utah.
“It was always a really good challenge no matter who I guarded,” he said. “They each brought something different.”
Law was also able to play in front of NBA scouts, who came out in droves to watch him and several other high Division I players, including Indiana’s O.G. Anuoby and Thomas Bryant and Wisconsin’s Bronson Koenig.
“They like my versatility—everything I can do—and my ability to shoot the ball,” Law, who shot 35.5 percent from three and pulled in nearly five rebounds per game as a true freshman, said. “A lot of what they said is just me having a better rhythm, because I haven’t played in seven months. They were saying we want to see you do more off the bounce, create more.”
Law added that his shoulder is feeling much better and should continue to improve as he gets back into game condition, but the time off last year helped him mature as a vocal leader.
For both McIntosh and Law, their roles on the team will evolve this year. Last year’s senior leaders Tre Demps and Alex Olah are gone, and with role players Nathan Taphorn and Sanjay Lumpkin the only players in the current senior class, it’s time for McIntosh and Law to step up in on and off the court.
For Law, it’s simple. The best way for the team to improve is for the intrasquad competition to improve.
“This team has always had a good camaraderie, a good chemistry,” he said. “We need to come out with that aggressive fight. Everyone needs to compete for those five spots on the court, and if you’re going to hurt somebody’s feelings, so be it.”
And McIntosh thinks that competitiveness will be brought out; he thinks the team is much more seasoned than it may look on paper due to a lot of close battles throughout the past two seasons.
“So far with the new guys coming in, I think we have some great chemistry building,” McIntosh concluded. “We’ve had a terrific summer. We’re doing a lot of different things to build that chemistry.”