As most reading this know, Pete Nance was the highest-rated recruit in Northwestern basketball history at the time of his arrival on campus. The rail-thin Nance was clearly a work in progress, and most didn’t expect him to start or even be one of the top freshmen in a talented Big Ten. But thanks to health setbacks and difficulties once he did get on the court, Nance barely even contributed. As a result, there are more questions than answers swirling around the talented forward as he heads into his second season.
Nance didn’t play much, especially in conference play and against better teams. That offensive rating ain’t great though! He didn’t acquit himself particularly well in any category during his time on the court, except for his block percentage, which was solid even for a guy his size. But the first year turned the ball over way too much and wasn’t particularly adept at scoring from anywhere on the court, including, though his sample size was limited, the charity stripe.
Nance’s effective field goal percentage was low, nearing 40, mainly because he just wasn’t making shots. The Cleveland native had largely solid shot selection, with nearly all of his threes coming in rhythm and off of passes, but a 27 percent hit rate from beyond the arc just isn’t gonna cut it. Nance also took a few too many two point jumpers, though he did convert well (in a limited sample size) around the rim.
Defensively, Nance was semi-reliable. He couldn’t move his feet well enough to stay in front of quicker forwards, but he made plays at the rim and wasn’t awful on the boards. You could see him growing into a solid defender before the illness in the middle of the season set him back, and he did a good job of not making obvious, unnecessary mistakes.
Offensively, his athleticism and promise were certainly present. Nance, a streaky shooter, got hot occasionally, and displayed why a 6-10 forward with some driving ability can be dangerous when the jumpers are falling. The total package wasn’t anywhere close to complete this year, but flashes of future ability still showed through.
Nance flat-out struggled with the ball in his hands. Aside from cold shooting when he was outside of the lane, he turned it over unnecessarily way too often. The sheer amount of traveling and dribbling into tough spots was almost impressive when compared to his limited minutes. He has a lot of work to do if he wants to find consistent success on that side of the ball.
Defensively, the quickness has to improve. Nance does a good job of not fouling and using his length to block shots. But laterally, his movement looks slow and awkward. If he wants to to successfully defend guys that aren’t pure post players, he will have to add something to his game.
First and foremost, it’s time to hit the weight room. It’s very understandable that Nance is currently as skinny as he is (even after a year in the program) when you take into account his in-season battle with an illness. I’m not saying he needs to turn into Anthony Gaines out there, but if he wants to achieve his full athletic potential, it would help to put on some muscle.
Second, and harder to accomplish, is offensive improvement. His jump shot needs to get better, yes, but he also needs to improve with the ball in his hands generally. Whether at the top of the key or in the post, Nance often looked uncomfortable with his dribble last season. That has got to change at a fundamental level for him to become the dynamic offensive player his frame indicates he can be.
The Bottom Line
Nance is a long way away. With a good offseason and not a lot of setbacks, it isn’t difficult to see plenty of improvement for next season. But if he wants to be one of the leaders of this team in two years, when they should have a legitimate shot at competitiveness, it will require a lot of work.
One concerning part of this season for Nance is that he never had a true breakout game. We saw in-game flashes, but he could never put it all together for longer than a play or two. That’s worrying, and needs to change at a fundamental level starting next year for him to be the impact guy Northwestern fans dreamed of when he signed his letter of intent.