Northwestern’s basketball program lost a tiny bit of momentum when Green Bay Packers quarterback and noted Wisconsin fan Aaron Rodgers beat out the Wildcats for Play of the Year at the ESPYs this week. However, in more important matters, Chris Collins and his staff earned plenty of good credit by securing two 2018 basketball commitments in the last week of June. Guard Jordan Lathon and forward Pete Nance are both top 150 players in the Class of 2018 and are reasons for Northwestern fans to be enthusiastic about the future of the program. Let’s take a look at the tape and see what the two incoming high school seniors bring to the table.
With Bryant McIntosh and Scottie Lindsey graduating after the 2017-18 season, Chris Collins needed a 2018 guard, and he got his man in Jordan Lathon. The four-star recruit out of Missouri figures to slot into Northwestern’s guard rotation during his true freshman season thanks to his impressive defensive potential and knack for finding the rim.
|Height||Weight||2018 Ranking||PPG||APG||RPG||SPG||Shooting splits|
|Height||Weight||2018 Ranking||PPG||APG||RPG||SPG||Shooting splits|
Lathon’s physical tools are obvious in his highlights. He is much longer, quicker, and stronger than the high school guards he matches up against in Missouri. Ranked as the 116th-best player in the class of 2018, Lathon led Grandview High School in every major category in 2016, including rebounds and blocks, even though he handled the ball most of the time.
I came up from nothing I mean it, now I'm living everything I was dreaming! @BCoachB pic.twitter.com/BVkLqQdllu— Jordan R. Lathon (@j2lathon) January 14, 2017
Highlights from a 34-point performance against Ruskin show Lathon throwing down two emphatic putback dunks, hanging in the air for a layup as a defender blows by him, and aggressively attacking three defenders in the paint for a difficult runner. Lathon averaged over five free throw attempts per game as a junior, which shows a knack for attacking the basket. In the Big Ten, physical guards and imposing big men will make journeys into the paint more unforgiving and difficult, but it is better to have a guard who is comfortable with contact than one who is not.
Lathon’s length gives him intriguing versatility as well. Scout reports that Lathon is comfortable playing on or off the ball, and the 6’4” guard has immense defensive potential, which could mean he sees a lot of time during his freshman campaign at Northwestern. It’s conceivable that Chris Collins could deploy him alongside Rapolas Ivanauskas, Vic Law, Aaron Falzon, and Dererk Pardon to create a lineup of lanky defenders who can switch against most lineups. Yet Lathon will undoubtedly see time at the two as well, with shot-maker (and arguable ball-pounder) Isiah Brown handling point guard duties. Either way, Lathon’s defensive skills should translate immediately to the next level.
Sitting in a zone, he anticipates the next pass, then leaps into the passing lane to snatch the steal and start a one-man fastbreak leading to a dunk. Lathon notched 2.3 steals a game during his junior year, while showing advanced defensive fundamentals as well
One pass away from the ball, Lathon shows at the ballhandler to stop his drive before recovering to steal the pass. Not a lot of high school basketball players have the physical ability and the basketball intelligence to make that play.
Developing polish on the offensive end is Lathon’s next challenge. The building blocks are there—Lathon made nearly one three pointer per game last year and his stroke is fluid and hitch-free.
However, he only shot 27 percent from deep and his 69 percent free throw percentage leaves something to be desired as well. In his highlights, most of Lathon’s damage is done around the hoop, on layups, dunks, and putbacks. At the next level, Lathon won’t be able to leverage his physicality. Once he arrives on campus next summer, expect Lathon to work on his consistency from three as well as a mid-range game.
The second 2018 recruit that Collins and his staff snagged this summer is Pete Nance. A 6-foot-8 forward out of Richfield, Ohio, Nance is a consensus four-star recruit and is rated among the top 80 by ESPN, 247 Sports, and Rivals. Beyond his family history (his father played fourteen seasons in the NBA and his older brother Larry Nance Jr. is a third-year forward for the Lakers), Nance’s unique skillset for his size is a big reason for excitement.
Obviously, Nance’s height is his strongest asset. During his junior season, he averaged 17 points and 12 rebounds per game. However, although he towers above most of his high school opponent, Nance is extremely comfortable on the perimeter and plays like a wing. Most prominent is his mid-range game. His highlight tape features a litany of pull-up jumpers, fall-away shots from the post, and runners in the paint.
Nance is comfortable putting the ball on the floor from the perimeter. He can dribble the length of the court, as evidenced by the clip below, where he displays a crossover move as well as a half spin before knocking down a jump shot.
While his handle is a little loose sometimes, Nance can go left or right with his dribble and has experience in the pick and roll. He has solid playmaking ability for his size, averaging about three assists a game, according to Ohio.com. Nance looks eerily like a taller Vic Law on this pull-up jumper from the elbow.
Nance has a natural, fluid shot for his height, and he’s able to use a quick release and soft touch near the basket while also leveraging his height to shoot over smaller defenders on the perimeter. He has shown range out beyond the college three point line.
In college, Nance projects as a stretch four, presumably to complement Dererk Pardon and Barret Benson. Nance has all the foundations of a versatile inside-outside offensive game. He’s listed anywhere from really, really skinny (180 pounds) to still pretty skinny (205 pounds) and he’ll have to put on weight to compete for boards and position with college big men. His weight could be a significant disadvantage against opposing big men early in his career. However, Nance’s physicals are projectable on the defensive end, and it’s easy to see why.
While Nance will see plenty of time at the three and the four, his frame and athleticism belie his ability to potentially guard up to four positions if he can add some weight.
While it seems like everyone can shoot nowadays, but what sets Nance apart is his ability to handle the ball and use an assortment of shots to get buckets from outside the paint. His commitment is a huge step in the right direction for the program. Given a chance to grow into his body and play alongside complementary teammates, Nance has an opportunity to be a scoring machine during his time in Evanston.