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Northwestern men’s basketball player previews: F Miller Kopp

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The highly touted sophomore is projected to be a major piece of the puzzle, both this year and going forwards.

NCAA Basketball: Big Ten Conference Tournament-Northwestern vs Illinois David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

It’s that time of year again. The men’s basketball season is right around the corner, and our first piece of preview content will be looking at the skill sets and projections of the individual players on the roster. First up is Miller Kopp, a sophomore forward from Houston, Texas.

Who he is:

Sophomore; forward; 6-foot-7; 210 pounds; Houston, TX; former four-star recruit

Stats:

4.9 points per game; 16.4 minutes; 2.2 rebounds; 1.1 assists; .370 FG%, .319 3FG%, .700 FT%

2018-19 review:

Kopp entered Evanston as one of the most highly rated recruits to ever join Chris Collins’ program. There were high expectations for his debut season, as he was expected to be a nice complementary weapon for Vic Law, Derek Pardon, and co., especially on the offensive end.

The Houston native largely failed to live up to those expectations, however, and endured a difficult, up-and-down freshman campaign. Kopp’s numbers tell the tale of his season, with the swingman failing to post any standout statistic and succumbing to the overall nature of the team’s offense last year.

He earned both the sixth-most points per game and minutes per game during the season, and served as a rotational player throughout the year. But though he had some moments of brilliance, mainly offensively but with a couple of plays sprinkled in on the other end of the court, they ended up more few and far between than Northwestern would have liked.

Strengths:

A scorer by trade, Kopp possesses an impressive ability to shoot the ball. Though his numbers didn’t show it this past year, he’s known for his scoring prowess, particularly in mid-range and three-point situations. He should be the best catch-and-shoot player this team has to offer, and he’ll have plenty of chances to showcase his talent.

Defensively, Kopp can use his length well to defend around the rim and contest attempts in the paint. He only averaged .4 blocks per game this past season, but he managed to make many shots more difficult than they could have been. The Texan is also at least passable when it comes to both passing in the half-court set and rebounding on both ends.

Weaknesses:

While he has the shooting skill to be an impactful player, Kopp currently lacks the ability to put the ball on the floor and beat players off the dribble. If the nominal small forward is able to add that tool to his tool box he will be a much more difficult player to defend at either forward slot. It’ll be vital for Kopp to diversify his game for the upcoming season.

Defending off the dribble is a similar weakness in Kopp’s skillset. There were times when slashing forwards were able to beat him and get to the rim with ease, and times when Kopp was able to hold his own. He’ll have to solidify that part of his game to become a reliable two-way player. One thing that is less fixable, though, is his overall lack of foot speed, which doesn’t help in either category.

Expectations:

Kopp will undoubtedly be a focal point of the offense this year. NU will likely use a much more balanced approach in terms of scoring, but the Texan will have to shoulder a large portion of those points regardless of the overall breakdown. He’ll be a starter and one of the most crucial players on the roster, so his progression will be a large factor in determining the team’s results.

However, Kopp will not be expected to be a star player, nor will he be tasked with being an extremely high-minute guy like Vic Law was when healthy last year. If this is a year of growth and development for Kopp, that would be a success for a team that is going through a clear rebuilding phase. If he takes the next step and establishes himself as a high-quality Big Ten player, it’ll be an added bonus.