Now that Welsh-Ryan Arena’s $110 million facelift is finally done, Northwestern is slated to return to Evanston. After a disappointing 15-17 season, ending with a loss at the hands of Penn State in the first round of the Big Ten tourney, head coach Chris Collins has a blend of veteran and new players. Leading the charge alongside co-captains Jordan Ash and Vic Law, Dererk Pardon returns as one of Northwestern’s best centers ever.
Who he is:
Senior | Center | 6-foot-8 | 235 pounds | Cleveland, Oh.
The numbers (2017-2018 season):
The Dererk Pardon story began his freshman year, when he burned his redshirt when Alex Olah got injured. Ever since, Pardon has proven to be one of the best bigs in the conference, earning his reputation as a tough rim protector, a monster on the boards and an efficient offensive player in a limited role. He began as a raw freshman with a lot of upside, and, heading into his final season, he’s a co-captain with the talent to be a force.
Pardon’s the everyday hustler that coaches dream of. He was the only player on the team to start all 32 games, and he set the school’s single-season record when he posted a .619 field goal percentage. He led the team with an average of just over seven boards per game, and he sent back 56 shots from opposing teams — good for first on the team, too. Despite his underwhelming physical presence (6-foot-8), he more than makes up for it with his hustle, ability, and 7-foot-3 wingspan. His ability to crash the offensive glass is key for Northwestern’s offense.
Not only is he producing for Northwestern, but he is also getting better with every season. He’s limiting fouls, his free-throw percentage increases steadily, he shares the ball, and he’s scoring more and more every year. We saw him develop a mid-range jumper last season, and his distribution capabilities have improved year-over-year.
Pardon’s weaknesses are similar to that of many big men: free throws from the line are nowhere near automatic, his foot speed lacks at times, and he doesn’t have much range. Pardon looks lost at times when he’s forced to switch out onto stretch-bigs who shoot threes. If Pardon were to stretch the floor and find his shot a bit further from the basket, he could turn even more dominant. He’s a solid post player, but he doesn’t have the footwork of Ethan Happ or the physical tools of Nick Ward. He also hasn’t proven he can be the focal point of an offense in the half-court.
It’s not unreasonable to expect Pardon to take control of some games this year; if Northwestern will have a good season, he’ll have to be the leading force at times. He has to be assertive on offense, and his points per game should increase with more built-in opportunities in offense. Pardon will continue to crash the boards, block some shots and bring his physical, leave-it-all-out-there game mentality. Look to Pardon to be rock-solid down-low this season.