Coming off the greatest season in program history, it’s imperative that Northwestern basketball continues its momentum heading into the final year of Bryant McIntosh and Scottie Lindsey’s eligibility. And even though the Wildcats will replace their two departing seniors with three players who didn’t play this past season — Aaron Falzon, Rapolas Ivanauskas and Anthony Gaines — Chris Collins will undoubtedly want to continue to add talent to the roster to increase depth and go all in on improving next season.
With two scholarships available heading into the offseason, Collins has a couple of options. His first priority is going to be picking up another class of 2017 recruit to join Gaines; Mark Smith and Clifton Moore would both be massive pickups both for the upcoming season and beyond. But if Northwestern can’t land another high-impact recruit (and even if they land one), the logical next move would be to look to the graduate transfer market.
There is precedent for Collins adding a grad transfer who could help right away. In 2014, Northwestern went that route in grabbing Jeremiah Kreisberg from Yale, although the big man finished with more fouls (26) than points (25) in Collins’ second year. In a more successful move, the Wildcats landed Joey Van Zegeren from Virginia Tech in 2015, and JVZ finished second on the team in blocks while backing up Alex Olah.
This offseason, it may very well make sense for Collins to go after a grad transfer once again; as long as he’d fit in with the current roster, adding an experienced veteran to the bench could be quite beneficial and there are a seemingly infinite number of options on the market at the moment. This is mostly speculation of course, but here are five players to keep your eyes on in the coming months.
Sean Obi, 6-foot-9 center, Duke
Obi has a 265-pound body and a prior connection to Northwestern, making him an intriguing candidate. After starting his career out with a strong freshman season at Rice (11.4 ppg, 9.3 rpg), Obi decided to transfer when Owls coach Ben Braun resigned. Collins reportedly had interest back in 2014, but Obi ended up deciding to play for Coach K at Duke. Unfortunately, he dealt with injury issues and only appeared in ten games over two seasons with the Blue Devils. Obviously, that brings some concern, but if Collins believes the talented Obi is healthy and could return to his freshman form, he could be an interesting addition to Northwestern’s Dererk Pardon-Barret Benson frontcourt.
Christian Sengfelder, 6-foot-7 power forward, Fordham
Sengfelder is a skilled forward from Germany who has been linked to Northwestern a couple of times since announcing his decision to finish his career away from Fordham.
Eligible immediately as a grad transfer. Big hole for Fordham. One person told me Northwestern was interested in Sengfelder last year. https://t.co/4q42UbCU8a— Mike Watts (@MikeWattsOnAir) March 23, 2017
Sengfelder averaged 12.1 points and 5.1 rebounds per game for the Rams last season.
Darius Thompson, 6-foot-4 point guard, Virginia
With Isiah Brown showing he still has a ways to go this past season, Collins could definitely look to add a veteran ballhandler to spell McIntosh. One such possibility would be Thompson, who has good size for the position and comes from a strong defensive system with Tony Bennett. Thompson, who started his career at Tennessee, has two years of NCAA Tournament experience with the Cavaliers and is a solid shooter from outside.
Hans Brase, 6-foot-8 power forward, Princeton
Perhaps Collins will go the Ivy route for a second time? The Ivy league doesn’t allow players who have graduated to play during their fifth year, so it makes sense that the league produces a decent amount of grad transfers every year. Brase played in just four games for the Tigers after suffering a season-ending knee injury in December, but was a very productive stretch four during his first three seasons. He’s obviously got the academic chops to finish his career at NU, as do all of these guys. Brase’s teammate, 6-foot-4 shooting guard Henry Caruso, is a name to watch as well. Caruso suffered a season-ending injury just four days after Brase did.
Kameron Rooks, 7-foot center, Cal
If Collins wants to go after a traditional, athletic big man like Van Zegeren, he could pursue Rooks, who averaged 4.9 points and 4.5 rebounds for the Golden Bears last season. Rooks never truly broke through in Berkeley but the potential is there for another guy with an NBA dad.
Other names that I’m literally just throwing out there
- Malcolm Allen, 6-foot-1 point guard, Stanford
- Mark Donnal, 6-foot-9 power forward, Michigan
- Nigel Johnson, 6-foot-1 point guard, Rutgers - who could maybe hit insane threes in the faces of Northwestern’s opponents, rather than against Northwestern
- Duby Okeke, 6-foot-8 center, Winthrop
- Nick King, 6-foot-7 small forward, Alabama