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Northwestern basketball player previews: C Dererk Pardon

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Still just a junior, Pardon has been working on his jump shot.

Northwestern v Gonzaga Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Basketball season is just around the corner. To get ready for the No. 19 Northwestern Wildcats basketball season (look at that number!), we will bring you in-depth player previews for every scholarship member of the 2017-18 Northwestern Wildcats. Next up is Dererk Pardon.

Who he is:

Junior; center; 6-foot-8, 235 pounds; Cleveland, Ohio

The stats:

8.6 points per game; 30.8 minutes; 8.0 rebounds; 1.1 assists; .611/.000/.544 shooting splits

2016-17 Recap:

Pardon became widely known as the scorer in “The Play” when he made the game-winning layup against Michigan, all but securing the Wildcats’ first ever NCAA tournament bid. Let’s just watch that again.

Pardon said he’s put that in the past and the team is focused solely on the present now. That being said, his vast improvements during his sophomore season should not be ignored. His usage and value practically doubled last year, improving from an average of just 16.6 minutes per game to 30.8. Although his scoring averages weren’t all that different (6.7 to 8.6 points per game), he improved in a crucial area for NU — rebounding. The 6-foot-8 center went from 4.2 rebounds per game to 8.0. He also tripled his blocking average, improving from 0.6 to 1.8 blocks per game.

Last season, even after missing eight games after suffering a hand injury, Pardon led the team on the offensive boards with 91 offensive rebounds and also topped the rankings in total rebounds. He also led the team in blocks, tallying 50 on the season. His offensive and defensive rebounding percentage led the team by a substantial margin. And although Pardon struggled with shooting in certain areas, he still managed to lead the team and the Big Ten in field goal percentage (61.7 percent) in conference play.

Pardon shined in various games last season, including posting a double-double in a win over Texas, blocking 6 shots against Notre Dame, almost reaching a triple-double with blocks at Rutgers, and grabbing 22 rebounds — the most by a Northwestern player in 51 years — against Nebraska.

Strengths:

Undoubtedly, one of Pardon’s greatest strengths is his rebounding ability. Aside from that, he uses his height to his advantage on all aspects of defense, which is particularly clear from his 50 blocked shots. Pardon said he believed his biggest strength was his physicality and “being relentless on the glass,” something which comes through in his stats.

Often, those offensive boards are a large part of his ability to score, allowing him to capitalize on putbacks. Putbacks are a significant amount of Pardon’s points, with a team-high total of 36 and a field goal percentage of 68.6 percent on those shots. Another source of his scoring is lobs.

Weaknesses:

Although Pardon was aggressive in the paint and strong at the post, he struggled with mid-range shots throughout the season. Pardon said he and Coach Collins discussed and worked on his jumper in the offseason, which he hopes will contribute to expanding his game. Last season, 30 percent of Pardon’s shot attempts came from two-point jumpers, 42 percent of which he knocked down.

“Last [season] I struggled a lot when it comes to my shot, so I’m just trying to expand my game more and just trust my work,” Pardon said.

Pardon also had the lowest free throw percentage on the team, shooting just 54 percent from the line and a dreadful 44 percent in conference play. As a physical big, Pardon is likely to get fouled and could capitalize greatly on free throws if that ratio increases.

Expectations:

Pardon started in all 28 games in which he appeared last season, and as long as he doesn’t suffer an injury this season, there’s no reason that he shouldn’t start every game in 2017-18. The idea of a Barret Benson/Pardon duo working together in the post has also been floated. The jury is out on the two-big lineup, but Pardon said it would allow him to work as a “running big” while Benson is “more of a traditional big.” He should continue to put up impressive rebounding and shot-blocking stats. If Pardon’s work on the mid-range jumper pays off and he continues to battle on the offensive boards and finish putbacks, he could also become a key component of Northwestern’s scoring.