Basketball season is just around the corner. To get ready for the season, we will bring you in-depth player previews for every scholarship member of the 2017-18 Northwestern Wildcats. Continuing with the series, we have forward Rapolas Ivanauskas, who missed all of last season with a shoulder injury.
Who he is
Redshirt freshman; forward; 6-foot-9; 210 pounds, Barrington, Illinois
Ivanauskas gives Chris Collins a versatile and physical presence on the front line. He can shoot the three, but he also has the size to bang on the inside and fight for offensive rebounds. He'll provide valuable depth, and gives the Wildcats a skilled big that has a European-style skillset; he says he tries to model his game off of Dirk Nowitzki.
"I can play three through five, but I'll be playing more four this year," Ivanauskas said. "I can stretch the floor, drive the ball, post up, and guard multiple positions."
One advantage Ivanauskas has over most newcomers is that he sat and watched all of last season, which, though it does have its downsides, allowed the Barrington native to learn Collins' schemes and adjust to college life before being thrown into the fire.
"Definitely the game slowed down for me," Ivanauskas said when asked about his experience in 2016-2017. "When I came in my freshman summer, everything was so fast and so hectic for me, so watching plays and seeing defensive schemes, I can apply it to the floor."
Though missing last season allowed Ivanauskas to soak in a lot of new information, he did lose a season of playing and conditioning. It'll take some time for him to get re-acclimated with the intricacies of game action.
When asked about where he's most rusty, Ivanauskas replied "just playing."
"I haven't played a game since my senior year of high school," he said. "Just playing five-on-five. One-on-one I'm very good right now."
On the court, there are questions about where Ivanauskas will be able to affect the game. He seems like he can do a lot of things pretty well, but will any of those things be done at a high enough level to significantly impact the game this season?
He can shoot the three, but he'll need to shoot it efficiently to justify him getting on the floor for a lot of minutes alongside Dererk Pardon or Barret Benson, who play closer to the rim.
The coaching staff played Ivanauskas for fewer minutes than any other scholarship player in the intrasquad scrimmage, so it appears he'll be slowly worked into the lineup. He's still wearing a sizable shoulder brace/sleeve, so his shoulder may still be affecting him.
His minutes should go up as non-conference play goes on and his conditioning improves, and he'll offer another body in the front court for the more physical style of the Big Ten.
A general minutes estimate would be somewhere in the 15-20 range, though that's merely a guess.
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