This past decade has been the most successful for Northwestern men’s basketball since the 1930s, thanks to the program’s first ever NCAA Tournament appearance. Despite recent failures to build upon this monumental success and the fact that, still, no Northwestern player has been drafted into the NBA this century, some great college basketball players have had the opportunity to grace the floor of Welsh-Ryan Arena.
We here at Inside NU thought we’d come up with an all-decade starting five (and bench) to cap off the end of 2019.
Point Guard - Bryant McIntosh
This all-decade team needs a lead guard with guts, heart, and hustle, McIntosh accomplishes just that. The Indiana native led Northwestern to its first ever NCAA Tournament in his junior season, and averaged 13.0 points per game across his career.
His statistically best season came when he was a sophomore, as he scored 13.8 ppg with a player efficiency rating of 18.2, yet, his performance against Vanderbilt in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, where he scored 25 points, including a go-ahead bucket to put the ‘Cats up by 1 with a minute left is the standout moment. Throughout his time in Evanston, he earned a reputation of a clutch performer willing to drive to the hole with his trademark floater or find the open man for a crucial assist.
Shooting Guard - Drew Crawford
The 2009-10 Big Ten Freshman of the Year was a phenomenal two-way threat and a workhorse on the court. He ranks 3rd all-time in the conference in total minutes played, a testament to his endurance and the importance placed on the Naperville native by both Chris Collins and Bill Carmody.
He also dropped 30 against a good Wisconsin team in 2014 and averaged an 18.5 player efficiency rating across four and a half seasons in Evanston. Pretty impressive, I must say. While he couldn’t carve out an NBA career, Crawford has found success across the pond in Italy’s Lega Basket Serie A, winning its MVP Award in 2019. On this team, he’d play a role as a secondary scorer and another ball-handler alongside McIntosh.
Small Forward - Vic Law
The second of three members of the NCAA Tournament squad, Law utilized his length and versatility to help the ‘Cats to greater heights. He started all 36 games in the 2016-17 season and served as an effective 3 in the ‘Cats front court. He was a phenomenal defender and could guard just about anyone in the Big Ten, and he was forced to carry much of the scoring load for the 2018-19 edition of the ‘Cats, averaging 15.0 points per game.
Law’s shooting ability garnered some interest from the NBA, but he is currently balling (and we mean balling) for the Lakeland Magic in the G-League. Law makes the starting lineup by virtue of his length and height as a 3 and, if this hypothetical team were to ever take the court, Law would be a second or third scoring option useful for spot-up shooting and top tier perimeter defense.
Power Forward - John Shurna
Shurna is one of, if not the best, player in Northwestern basketball history, and (perhaps) for the current NU student or recent alumnus, the least well known of any of the players in this lineup.
An all-Big Ten selection in 2012, Shurna beat Billy McKinney’s all-time NU scoring record and led the Big Ten in scoring. His advanced statistics top any other players on this team, with his senior season seeing him post a whopping 27.7 player efficiency rating.
Shurna demonstrated his quick release and willingness to drive to the hole throughout his career as the leader for some pretty impressive ‘Cats teams which, unfortunately, never did make the NCAA Tournament. On this team, he’d play the four and, though he would be a slight defensive liability at times, would also serve as a go-to scorer and rebounder, especially with the talent arrayed around him.
Center - Dererk Pardon
Aside from hitting arguably the biggest shot in Northwestern history, Pardon offers his second-to-none skill as a rebounder and shot-blocker. Despite only having a height of 6’8’’, Pardon’s length helped him to averaging 7.0 RPG across his four years in Evanston. He will also be able to make the most of his post touches, especially with the level of offensive talent around him.
As the natural center on this team, Pardon could shore up this hypothetical group’s rebounding and interior defense while offering the same energy, heart, and hustle any and every squad should have.
Scottie Lindsey: Backing up McIntosh and Crawford, the Hillside, IL, native offers his ability to hit shots beyond the arc and his ball-handling skill.
Alex Olah: The seven-footer offers a taller alternative to the shorter and more energetic Pardon. He’s Northwestern’s all-time blocks leader but also not afraid to show off his mid-range or the occasional three pointer.
Juice Thompson: Juice’s career took place mostly during the last decade, but his year-and-a-half in the 2010s qualifies him for this list. Thompson might be shorter than me, but the Lincoln Park native has a ton of endurance and left NU as the ‘Cats’ all-time assists leader. He’d be another great addition off the bench for the backcourt.
Reggie Hearn: The only guy to play in the NBA and the only walk-on on this team, the current South Bay Laker is a great perimeter shooter that also offers plenty of heart, defensive capability, and hustle.
Tre Demps: A natural shot-creator, Demps is another guy who could score a lot of points very quickly as instant offense off the bench for this team while also showing off his stable ball-handling skill.
JerShon Cobb: A solid swingman, Cobb battled injuries throughout his career in Evanston, but when healthy he can play either wing capably and would be another solid three-and-D option off the bench.
Sanjay Lumpkin: Lumpkin makes the bench solely by virtue of his defense. He’s another high energy guy with good length and aggression on the boards, and this group needs more of an interior presence on that end. He won’t contribute a ton offensively, but he’d serve as a defensive specialist and leader.
Well, that’s the all-decade team. Perhaps it’s a testament to the sad state of Northwestern basketball that no player on this year’s team, aside from Anthony Gaines (for his permitter defense), was even considered for this squad, though at least two members of their current staff, in Cobb and McIntosh, are on it!
The younger guys on this year’s team will have to try for the all-decade team in 2029 that someone who’s currently in fourth grade will end up writing.
Anyways, did we miss anyone? Just how good would this roster, as constructed of these players in their Northwestern primes, be?