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Northwestern men’s basketball player previews: F Aaron Falzon

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After a disappointing campaign last year, the redshirt junior has a new opportunity to prove himself.

CBE Hall Of Fame Classic Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Who he is:

Redshirt junior; forward; 6-foot-8; 225 pounds; Newton, Mass.

The stats:

5.5 points per game; 16.0 minutes; 1.7 rebounds; 0.5 assists; .349/.375/.853 shooting splits

2017-2018 review:

Aaron Falzon struggled to find his step for the Wildcats’ last season. He battled lingering injuries that kept him out of the entire 2016-17 season and the numbers showed. The redshirt junior’s 2017-18 production dropped in nearly all respects compared to the numbers he produced when he was healthy his freshman year. Falzon fell from 8.4 PPG to 5.5 PPG and dropped in both assists and rebounds per game compared to his 2015-16 stat line.

Falzon’s 16 minutes per game ranked seventh highest on the team and he gradually fell out of the starting lineup as the season went on. He started only five conference games after featuring as a starter for the majority of non-conference play. Overall, it was a difficult bounce back season for Falzon who was surpassed by Gavin Skelly as Chris Collins’ preferred power forward.

Strengths:

Falzon is a offensive-minded stretch four player. The 6-foot-8 forward was brought to Northwestern to attack the basket with his long athletic frame and punish conservative defenders unwilling to respect his above average three-point shooting ability. Falzon’s .375 rate from behind the arc was the third highest on the team last season behind only Scottie Lindsey and Vic Law. His length gives him the ability to rise over defenders to get shots off while still being a viable option in the post if Northwestern has a smaller lineup in the game.

Weaknesses:

While Falzon may be the most proven three-point shooting threat on this 2018-19 NU roster, he proved inconsistent in scoring production elsewhere last season. Falzon’s .349 field goal percentage was the team’s worst among regular players and he converted at an abysmal .273 rate on two-point attempts. No other player on Northwestern’s roster was below .400 on two-point field goal percentage. For someone with as strong as an outside shot as Falzon, those low numbers are alarming.

Falzon also struggled defensively. He looked a step slow on the perimeter, and quicker players would often blow by him. Part of that may be due to lingering injuries, but if Falzon is healthy this year, he needs to improve on that end of the floor.

Expectations:

After difficulty producing last season, Falzon has a chance to bounce back and showcase the scoring abilities that made him a top-100 recruit coming out of high school. With the departure of Scottie Lindsey, Bryant McIntosh and Gavin Skelly — three of Northwestern’s top outside shooters from last season — Falzon will be expected to become one of the Wildcats’ best deep ball threats. It seems like a healthy Falzon should get the first crack at the four in Chris Collins’s lineup, but the forward struggled mightily last year and lost time to Skelly and Anthony Gaines.

If Falzon fails to produce early on, don’t be surprised to see the coaching staff turn to true freshmen Miller Kopp and/or Pete Nance to replace his minutes. The two talented four-star recruits match Falzon’s length and scoring ability quite similarly, so Falzon will certainly have to earn his playing time early on in the year.

There’s no guarantee which Aaron Falzon Northwestern fans will get this season. Will we see the Falzon that struggled to stay healthy and create his own shot last season, or the Falzon that hit 63 three-pointers in 2015-16, the second most of any true freshman in NU history?We’ll hope for the latter.