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Northwestern men’s basketball player previews: G Anthony Gaines

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Gaines is set to make a big impact on both sides of the ball this season.

NCAA Basketball: Northwestern at Nebraska Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

Who he is:

Junior, guard, 6-foot-4; 205 pounds; Kingston, NY native ; former three-star recruit

2018-19 Stats:

6.9 points per game; 26.6 minutes; 4.7 rebounds; 2.2 assists; .356 FG%; .260 3FG%; .769 FT%

2018-19 review:

Gaines came into the 2018-19 season off of a solid freshman campaign, and largely improved across the board. The junior earned a large chunk of playing time last season due to the departures of Bryant McIntosh and Scottie Lindsay.

While Gaines failed to post many eye-popping statistics, he was consistent on both sides of the ball, creating plays when needed. He showed great flashes on the offensive end further into the year, dropping a season-high 18 points in a conference loss at Maryland.

Overall, Gaines averaged the fifth-most minutes per game throughout last year, while also averaging the fifth-most points. He wasn’t expected to be a standout star with scorers like Law, Taylor and Turner, and worked well with the relatively limited role he received last season.

Strengths:

Defense, baby. While Northwestern was a stout defensive team last season, Gaines only added to that, finishing tied for second in steals per game with 0.8 and third in blocks per game with 0.6. He has good length, good speed and a solid frame, weighing in at 205 pounds.

All in all, his physicals make him a difficult matchup for guards throughout the conference, and he has the confidence to back it up, telling us at Big Ten Media Day that he is fully prepared to guard the best opposing player night in and night out, even going as far as to say he welcomes the challenge.

On top of his impressive defense, Gaines does a good job of holding onto the ball and limiting turnovers, averaging just 1.2 per game last season. Additionally, the junior can distribute the ball when needed, putting up 2.2 assists per game last year, good for third-best on the team.

Weaknesses:

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Gaines’ greatest weakness is his shooting. He shot an anemic .260% from the three point line last season. Within the arc, Gaines’ numbers improved, but he still struggled with efficiency, shooting just .392% from within the arc.

Both Collins and Gaines have talked multiple times over the course of the offseason about him needing to add the shot beyond the arc to his arsenal and drilling it (and his shooting form in general) consistently in practice, especially when he was sidelined with an injury earlier in the offseason. In fact, during the team scrimmage, everybody on the bench loudly encouraged Gaines to shoot when he was open beyond the arc in a way they didn’t for any other player.

Fouls are another issue for Gaines. While the numbers don’t stand out on paper (averaged just 2.4 fouls per game last year), there were times when his foul trouble hurt the ‘Cats. One such example came against Penn State, an ugly game that saw Gaines pick up his fourth foul just three minutes into the second half.

Expectations:

All in all, Gaines will be expected to make a much larger impact on both sides of the floor and may be needed to lead at times with the departures of Vic Law and Dererk Pardon. The junior will have to shoulder a large load defensively and may be expected to pick up some scoring in what should be a much more balanced offensive scheme.

Gaines will have star-level expectations, and while much of the national attention may be on lacrosse-star-turned-shooting-guard Pat Spencer, Gaines should be ready for a high load of minutes and may be handed the keys to the offense.

After being given some time to mature and develop over his past two years, Anthony Gaines is a breakout player to watch this season, even for a team that isn’t projected to do much around him, especially if he can become more efficient on the offensive side of the floor.